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The term Coroner has been in use in England since about the year 1194.  Coroner is derived from the term coruner (root word corona, Latin for crown, an officer of the crown, meaning worked for the King).  The position of Coroner has evolved over the centuries as a public official responsible for the investigation and certification of the cause, manner, and mechanism of death for cases of sudden, unexpected, or unnatural death. 

Much of American law derives from the English system and the office of the Coroner has remained in use in the United States to date.  The use of the office of the Coroner varies widely throughout the United States where the office is either an elected or an appointed position.  In Cowlitz County, the Office of the Coroner is an elected position. 

In the State of Washington, law directs that the investigation of sudden, unexpected, and unnatural deaths take place within the 39 county jurisdictions.  The system varies from county to county based on the population size of each county.  Counties with a population less than 40,000 the elected prosecutor also serves as the coroner; populations greater than 40,000 have an independent elected coroner; counties with a population greater than 250,000 can adopt the use of an appointed medical examiner. 

The purpose of the Cowlitz County Coroner’s Office is to bring trained medicolegal evaluations to the investigation of deaths that are of concern to public health, safety, and the welfare of the our community.  Accurate investigation and determination of the cause, manner, and mechanism of death are essential to our society for the following reasons:

  • The innocent shall be exonerated,
  • Murder shall be recognized,
  • Criminal and civil court proceeding will be provided with documented, sound, and impartial forensic evidence,
  • Unrecognized hazards to public health shall be revealed,
  • Industrial hazards shall be exposed.

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