Sunday, February 19, 2012

In Defense of Nancy Grace

In Defense of Nancy Grace

Manner of Death vs. Cause of Death

By: Joseph L. Giacalone

I never thought I would be writing a blog post in defense of Nancy Grace, but I have to. Recently, the talk show host voiced her opinion about the equivocal death investigation of singer Whitney Houston, but may have used the wrong terminology. An equivocal death is one that has lots of questions and that the Manner of Death is not immediately clear. When a 48 year old dies unexpectedly the way Houston did, no matter what the person's history, the police have just that, many unanswered questions.

What everyone was waiting for was the Manner of Death determination and not the cause of death. Nancy did not explain this part which may have cleared up the confusion on what she actually meant. There are only five (5) Manners of Death (MOD) that get recorded on the death certificate: Natural, Accidental, Suicide, Homicide and Undetermined. The Manner of Death should never be confused with the Cause of Death (COD). The COD is an injury or disease that produces death: i.e. heart disease, gunshot wound, stab wound, drug overdose, etc.

As a former investigator, I know a few things about death investigations. The first rule is that every death will be investigated as if it were a homicide until all of the facts and evidence prove otherwise. The Beverley Hills Police are playing this case close to the vest and withholding information which has lead to all of the media hoopla and conjecture. However, this is the smart way to investigate a high profile case, or any case for that matter.

By deferring the MOD, the coroner has enable the police to follow up on leads, whatever they may be. This case will be closed after the BHPD have finished interviewing those that were around the singer last, accumulating surveillance camera footage from the hotel and tracking down all of her prescriptions. If you remember the same type of investigation was conducted after Michael Jackson died, leading to the arrest and conviction of his former doctor, Conrad Murray.

There is a lesson learned for future high profile media cases: reserve judgement until the autopsy protocol and official death certificate are released and let the police do what they do best, investigate.

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Cause of Death vs. Manner of Death

1 comment:

  1. Hi Joe,

    I'm a fan of Nancy Grace and I was shocked by what she said. However, after reading your post, it has helped me understand a few things.

    We need to try and remember that with any investigation, there will be many questions and it's up to the investigator to find the answers.

    Thank you for the post.

    Marguerite Ashton