There is a lot to say about this week's gripping series by Frontline, The Times-Picayune, and Pro-Publica, and I wish I had a few hours to go on at length. Unfortunately, I'll have to dart in and out.
If you haven't been keeping up, please get yourself started now.
I don't know exactly what's coming up in this series but I would like to briefly to discuss the race for coroner.
Though it had been assumed for a long time that the longtime incumbent coroner, Dr. Frank Minyard would retire at the end of his term, he has decided to run for reelection. At first, it appeared as though he would be unchallenged but an opponent did surface before the end of qualifying.
Dr. Dwight McKenna has entered the race.
Dr. McKenna was also once an employee of the Orleans Parish Coroner's Office, so he is not an inexperienced candidate. He and his wife,
another doctor who was recently involved in a tragic and horrible car accident, are behind the McKenna Museum of African American Art and the New Orleans Tribune.
Minyard came under fire after Katrina for the slow pace at which his office was able to identify victims and for apparently refusing aid that would have bolstered his staff.
Minyard has been on my own radar since I began researching material for this unflattering profile of Police Superintendent Warren Riley. Minyard came up when I was reading about the death of Adolph Archie, who was beaten to death while in custody after he was arrested for the murder of a police officer. You can check out this scanned clipping of the AP story reporting Minyard's new story, this account in Above the Law: Police and the Excessive Use of Force pg. 33, or this one from a 1995 New York Times column by Bob Hebert.
He also was a major impediment to A.C. Thompson's exposure of violent racist vigilantism in Algiers Point after the levee failure. From an interview with Thompson:
The lawsuit brought by me and the Nation Institute's Investigative Fund also gobbled up many months. We sued Orleans Parish Coroner Frank Minyard for the right to copy every single autopsy report tied to Hurricane Katrina. All we really wanted were the autopsies documenting shooting victims, but Minyard refused to give us those, saying he couldn't sort them out from all the other autopsies. So we wound up demanding everything, as we were allowed under Louisiana law. We won. And the coroner now owes the Investigative Fund some $10,000 in attorney fees, which he hasn't paid.
Dr. Minyard is 80 years old now. At some point or another, someone else is going to be leading the Coroner's office. I have a hard time thinking of another city that elects its coroners. Are their any? What are the advantages of having the coroner subject to the political process?
Update: Does Dr. Frank Minyard still live in New Orleans anymore?