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State medical examiner loses job amid SBI review

Posted November 7, 2013

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— 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.

Crystal Mangum in court Questions about autopsies won't delay Durham murder trial

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.

13 Comments

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  • Good Bye WRAL Nov 8, 2013

    Unless the M.E. found that Mr. Day died of natural causes, there should be little impact on Mangum's case. Other than lamenting the continued cost of bring Ms. Mangum to justice, I, too, would like any impact resolved before she escapes justice on a technicality.

  • fuzzmom Nov 8, 2013

    You guys are missing the point. There was as tip that he did something inappropriate during the autopsy- something criminal. Whatever it was, it wasn't your run of the mill offense. Unfortunately, even though it should be clear how these people died, if you don't have first hand evidence from someone qualified to testify, or if that person's credibility is shot, it's a huge problem.

  • sharonmontour Nov 8, 2013

    This is a darn shame. Clay Nichols is a good man, and a good medical examiner and there is absolutely NOTHING to indicate he did anything wrong. If these homicides are unsolved, that's on the police departments... the m.e. reports clearly state both deaths were, in fact, homicides. It isn't up to him to actually solve the case. As for Mangum getting a fair trial - seriously - with her track record, she deserves nothing.

  • I am Blessed_56 Nov 8, 2013

    "More incompetence and corruption in a office run by Roy Cooper." Pirate01

    Not true - Dr. Nichols worked for DHHS, not DOJ

  • Pirate01 Nov 7, 2013

    More incompetence and corruption in a office run by Roy Cooper.

  • disgusted2010 Nov 7, 2013

    Medical Examiners should never make a mistake that will allow a murderer to continue to walk the streets and highways.
    678devilish

    If the medical examiners cannot do their job, they should either step down or be fired.

    Perfection must be so difficult.

  • 678devilish Nov 7, 2013

    If the medical examiners cannot do their job, they should either step down or be fired.

  • 678devilish Nov 7, 2013

    Medical Examiners should never make a mistake that will allow a murderer to continue to walk the streets and highways.

  • Obamacare for one and all Nov 7, 2013

    Meh, he probably just didn't care about this particular autopsy.

  • Smokin Nov 7, 2013

    Superman, he was inside someone else's home at the time. They would be checking for drugs, etc in addition to cause of death. True, cause of death is a primary focus of the autopsy, but sometimes you find out a lot in coming to that decision and it might not be as obvious as it seems.

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