Coroner Who Worked
Dr. Wiley's Death
Faces Indictment

From Patricia Doyle, PhD

Hello Jeff: Well, this is one for the books. Dr. Smith was the coroner who investigated and autopsied Dr. Don C. Wiley case, yet, no mention of that fact. He worked the Wiley case just 6 months before the incident. This is really bizzare. Why would he fake such an attack?
Patricia Doyle
Coroner Faces Indictment In Connection With Torture
By John Branston
MEMPHIS, Feb. 11 " A federal grand jury on Tuesday accused the Shelby County medical examiner of faking an attack in which he was wrapped head to toe in barbed wire, strapped with a homemade bomb around his neck and bound to window bars in his office here.
The incident, which the authorities say was staged by the examiner, Dr. O'Brian C. Smith, occurred in the middle of the night on June 1, 2002. The coroner was found by a security guard who notified the police bomb squad. Seventeen federal, state and local law enforcement agencies including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms responded, the authorities said, and the case was featured on television on "America's Most Wanted."
The 18-month investigation originally pursued the theory that Dr. Smith had been attacked by a religiously motivated extremist who left a bomb in his office three months earlier. A year before that, the police and a reporter received threatening letters saying, "The evil one is in the body of O. C. Smith," and adding that he was trying to kill an inmate on death row in the Nashville state prison, Philip Workman. Investigators theorized that the same person was responsible for the bombs and the letters. No attacker was found.
By last summer, the investigation turned to Dr. Smith.
The indictment charges him with lying to agents and unlawful possession of a bomb. It offers no clue as to why Dr. Smith, 51, might have faked the attack.
Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, the chief medical examiner in Pittsburgh and president of the American Board of Legal Medicine, said the indictment could taint cases in which Dr. Smith had given critical evidence and cause them to be appealed.
"If he could fabricate a story like this that a Hollywood screenwriter on LSD would have difficulty coming up with, who can believe him in a courtroom?" Dr. Wecht asked.
The bombs could have killed several people, the authorities said.
The United States attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, H. E. Cummins, said in a statement that Dr. Smith had "exposed a variety of first responders and members of the M.P.D. bomb squad to significant danger in what they believed at the time to be Dr. Smith's `rescue.' "
The United States attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, Terrell Lee Harris, recused himself.
Dr. Smith appeared in federal court on Wednesday for an initial appearance. His lawyers entered a plea of not guilty, and Dr. Smith was released on his own recognizance.
A lawyer for Dr. Smith, James Garts, called him "a stand-up guy" who has testified for the prosecution and defense for more than 20 years.
Asked whether the doctor continued to think that he was in danger, Mr. Garts said: "Look, there's somebody out there. So yes."
A few hours before the plea and a few hours after the indictment had been handed up, Dr. Smith testified here in a murder case.
"This is a very serious charge," the district attorney, William L. Gibbons, said. "But at the same time, there is no reason to believe that it undermines the validity of his opinions as a medical expert. They are two different issues."
Mr. Gibbons said he might use Dr. Smith in more trials.
"When we were informed last summer that he was the focus of a criminal investigation," the prosecutor said, "we took steps to use alternative expert testimony when possible. We will continue to do this. But that is not to say we will not use him at all."
Defense lawyers and medical examiners who testify for them expressed shock at the indictment and Mr. Gibbons's reaction.
"This casts a pall over the entire criminal justice system," said Robert Hutton, a lawyer who represented Mr. Workman, who was convicted of killing a police officer in 1981. When it became known in September that the grand jury was investigating Dr. Smith, Gov. Phil Bredesen issued an 11th-hour stay of execution because Dr. Smith had testified for the prosecution in a postconviction hearing.
Hickman Ewing Jr., who was a federal prosecutor here for 15 years, said most prosecutors would probably try to work around Dr. Smith until he went on trial.
"I would think a prosecutor would be hesitant to call him as a witness," Mr. Ewing said. "Let's say it goes to trial, and he is acquitted. I would think the state on past cases could defend that. But is there potential for affecting a lot of cases? Probably so, yes."
Dr. Smith did not speak to reporters Wednesday and has given few interviews. This week, he offered to resign immediately or remain in his post until a replacement could be found. Mayor AC Wharton of Shelby County has started looking for a successor.
"When a prominent figure in law enforcement such as the medical examiner is charged with a crime, it strikes at the heart of our criminal justice system," James M. Cavanaugh, the agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who was in charge of the case, wrote in a statement. "But our responsibilities here are clear, to follow the facts and to enforce the law without fear or favor."
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