A legislative committee is moving forward with plans to possibly provide a statewide forensic pathologist to conduct autopsies in Wyoming.
The Joint Judiciary Committee asked state staffers to draft a bill this week that would create two such positions.
“I think it’s worthy of further conversation,” Wyoming Sen. Bill Landon, R-Casper, said. “I’d rather spend the money in Wyoming than I would elsewhere, if there’s a way to do it.”
Currently, most coroners in Wyoming use out-of-state autopsy facilities, according to a report from the Wyoming Coroner’s Association.
That means their money ends up bolstering another state’s economy, Wyoming Rep. Art Washut, R-Casper, pointed out.
If Wyoming hires its own forensic pathologist, he said, “we could pay a state employee within our own state (who) cashes that paycheck … in the local economy.”
He wasn’t sure whether Wyoming could support its own forensic pathologist, however.
“It’s more of a budgetary question,” Washut said. “Does the money make sense? Do we have enough work?”
He also wondered whether a forensic pathologist would be interested in “spending 300 days a year traveling around the state of Wyoming doing autopsies” – but Wyoming Rep. Ember Oakley, R-Riverton, said the position would not have to be mobile.
“We’re already taking bodies (out-of-state),” she said. “We could certainly … be transporting the bodies within the state.”
The bill draft the committee requested will include funding to cover those travel expenses.
Speaking “from a criminal justice perspective,” Oakley – who works as a prosecutor for the Fremont County Attorney’s Office – said she “would be a huge supporter of getting something like this going.”
“This would be extremely beneficial,” she said, explaining that it costs thousands of dollars to bring in out-of-state forensic pathologists to testify in court. “I would think that we could find a way that this would be not only economical, but it would be good for these serious cases that are happening in our state. … I think this could be an important move.”
The Judiciary Committee’s next meeting is scheduled to take place Sept. 18-19 in Casper.