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Lubbock County officials confident in Tarrant County Medical Examiner service as reports reveal issues

Updated: Apr. 20, 2021 at 7:01 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Since 2019, Lubbock County has used the Tarrant County Medical Examiner for autopsy services when the Commissioners Court decided to forgo hiring its own ME. Officials maintain the process has been a good one, despite reports of wrongdoing by a Tarrant County employee and the ME himself.

“We have the utmost trust in the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office,” Lubbock County Judge Curtis Parrish said. “Dr. [Nizam] Peerwani is widely recognized as being one of, if not, the expert in the field of medical pathology. So, we have very much a high level of trust.”

NBC DFW has published two reports in the past month about mistakes made by a Tarrant County coroner in multiple death investigations. The latest report shows a judge has granted a new trial for a death row inmate due to false testimony from Peerwani.

“I’m not as overly concerned about Lubbock County and Lubbock County cases,” Judge Parrish said. “Lubbock County is, believe it or not, a very small part of what Tarrant County does and their services.”

Lubbock County District Attorney K. Sunshine Stanek told KCBD that she is not aware of any issues affecting local cases or investigations.

“There is an audit being conducted, is my understanding, and if Lubbock County case comes up in that audit we will certainly be addressing that,” Stanek said. “That would be concerning but I have no knowledge of that today.”

Stanek also remains confident in the services Lubbock County is receiving from Tarrant County. She said the interaction with its ME’s office has been limited because of the pandemic forcing jury trials to cease. However, all interaction has been positive.

“I will say that was a very smooth process,” Stanek said. “The individuals that have testified for us here in Lubbock County, in a number of murder cases, have been very professional, very knowledgeable and very trustworthy, in my opinion. It’s been a good experience for our office.”

She said having a local medical examiner would be convenient for both prosecutors and defense attorneys. The problem that she sees is with the options for Lubbock County and others.

“There’s a very small pool across the country of qualified forensic pathology candidates,” Stanek said. “Right now we have a good system in place with Tarrant County. They can hop on an hour [flight] and be here to work with us on cases and testify. As of today, it’s a good system.”

Parrish tells KCBD the upcoming budget process will involve a review of all county departments, including the ME’s office. However, he doesn’t expect any change.

“I am very pleased with the way we are running medical examining services here in Lubbock County,” Parrish said. “Right now, as of today, we have no plans to change that but we will constantly be reviewing that.”

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