State medical examiner loses job amid SBI review
Posted November 7, 2013
Durham, N.C. — The state's second-ranked medical examiner has been fired amid a State Bureau of Investigation review of his work, officials said Thursday.
Dr. Clay Nichols "separated from his exempt appointment" as the state's deputy chief medical examiner on Tuesday, said Ricky Diaz, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Human Services.
The SBI is looking at "a couple of autopsies" performed by Nichols to determine whether policies and procedures were followed, Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said.
Woodall called in the SBI after receiving a tip in September that evidence was mishandled in the autopsy of a 2011 Cumberland County shooting victim. He is reviewing the SBI's findings and weighing whether to file any criminal charges.
The state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is now housed at a state lab in Raleigh, but it used to be in Chapel Hill, which puts any criminal investigation in Woodall's hands.
The Cumberland County case involves the autopsy of Terrell Boykin, one of two people killed in a Fayetteville home on May 8, 2011. His homicide remains unsolved.
"The Medical Examiner's Office is critical to helping solve crimes and to promote justice," Attorney General Roy Cooper said.
Nichols handled 418 of the 1,406 autopsies performed by state medical examiners last year, Diaz said.
"I can't comment on how far it's going, but I can tell you we're looking at that one case in Cumberland County," Cooper said.
Another of Nichols' 2011 autopsies involves a murder trial set to begin next week in Durham.
Crystal Mangum, 34, is charged with stabbing Reginald Daye, 46, in April 2011. He later died of his wound, and Nichols performed the autopsy in the case.
Mangum's attorney and the prosecutor on the case met Thursday afternoon with Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway to determine whether to delay the trial until questions about Nichols' work are resolved.
"We want to make sure we can fully explore and investigate any issues that may be there and make sure we give Ms. Mangum a fair trial," defense attorney Daniel Meier said.
Both sides agreed to proceed with jury selection next Tuesday, although Meier said he might seek a delay during the trial when Nichols' testimony comes up.
"We don't know if or how it will impact us, but this close to trial, clearly it is a concern, and we need to know we can gather sufficient info that it won't hurt us," he said.