Part Obs. An officer whose principal duty it is to hold an inquisition or inquest, sometimes with the assistance of a jury, over the body of any person who may have come to a violent or suspicious death, or who has died in prison. It is his duty also, in case of the death of the sheriff, or when a vacancy happens in that office, to serve all the writs and process which the sheriff is usually bound to serve. The chief justice of the King's Bench is the sovereign or chief coroner of all England, although it is not to be understood that he performs the active duties of that office in any one count.
The duties of the coroner are of the greatest consequence to society, both for the purpose of bringing to punishment murderers and other offenders against the lives of the citizens, and of protecting innocent persons from criminal accusations. His office, it is to be regretted, is regarded with too much indifference. This officer should be properly acquainted with the medical and legal knowledge so absolutely indispensable in the faithful discharge of his office. It not unfrequently happens that the public mind is deeply impressed with the guilt of the accused, and when probably he is guilty, and yet the imperfections of the early examinations leave no alternative to the jury but to acquit. It is proper in most cases to procure the examination to be made by a physician, and in some cases, it is his duty.