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Time to Standardize

March 13, 1988

The reasons given by jurors for their inability to reach a verdict in the San Diego murder trial of Craig Peyer should make it only too clear that it is time to create legislation standardizing both the information a coroner must collect in a homicide case and the admissibility in court of certain kinds of scientific evidence.

Jurors unanimously agreed that it was the San Diego coroner's office's lack of preparation in court, and specifically its failure to determine the victim's liver temperature at the site where the body was found, that made it impossible to arrive at a decision. Furthermore, the sort of genetic blood-typing and the fiber analysis used by the prosecution to try to establish Craig Peyer's guilt were brought into question by expert testimony presented by the defense.

As a society we seem to find ourselves unable to reduce an alarmingly high, nonpolitically motivated homicide rate. But while we unaccountably delay in addressing this urgent social problem, we can at least deal with a problem that has a tangible solution. Wrangling in court over the competency of a coroner's report and the admissibility of certain scientific evidence could be eliminated if coroner's procedures and evidence validity were scrutinized in a state or federal study and then standardized. Such standardizing legislation could ultimately save taxpayers' money and court time. And it would keep us from adding unnecessarily to the pain and confusion a victim's family must bear.

PAMELA L. CHEEK

San Diego

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