The Purdy’s have drafted two letters. One is addressed specifically to Justice of the Peace Billy Martin. The other is to be sent to thirteen elected officials and some local legal experts as well. With just a little time and a few bucks for ink and postage, you can be a HUGE part in bringing about Kari’s Law. Let’s flood these offices with our letters and support and make this happen. It will honor Kari’s memory. It will save lives.
Here is a portion of one of the letters:
"We’re writing you because Texas law regarding “deaths requiring an inquest” must be changed and you can do something about it. See Texas Code of Crim. Pro §49.01 et. seq.
The tragic example necessitating this change is the case of Texas v. Matt Baker. As you know, in that case Matt Baker was found guilty of murdering his wife Kari by drugging her and then suffocating her with a pillow. During the trial, the evidence revealed that Baker staged the murder scene to make the responding officers believe Kari’s death was a suicide. An autopsy was later performed, but only after a formal inquest hearing was granted and after Kari had been interred. If, however, a full or partial autopsy would have been a mandatory requirement for apparent suicides, like it is in other states such as Oklahoma or Georgia, crucial evidence against Mr. Baker would have been better preserved.
As it stands, current Texas law states that a justice of the peace shall conduct an “inquest into the death of a person who dies if the person commits suicide or the circumstances of the death indicate that the death may have been caused by suicide.” Texas Code of Crim. Pro. §49.04. An “inquest means an investigation into the cause and circumstances of the death…, and a determination, made with or without a formal court hearing, as to whether the death was caused by an unlawful act.” Texas Code of Crim. Pro §49.01. Moreover, a justice of the peace can conduct the “inquest…at any other place determined to be reasonable by the justice.” In the Baker case, this meant that the presiding justice of the peace was able to investigate Kari Baker’s death and determine the cause via a late night phone call without getting out of bed. Finally, a justice of the peace has the sole discretion of whether to order an autopsy. Texas Code of Crim. Pro §49.10.
An illuminating article in the February 7, 2010 Waco Tribune-Herald revealed that a justice of the peace receives only six hours of training in determining deaths. With all of the other duties of a justice of the peace –performing marriages, issuing warrants, setting bail, conducting criminal and civil trials- it seems that determining death is one duty that should be void of discretion and ultimately up to a medical professional. The same article revealed that in 2009 the County spent approximately $160,000 on autopsies, all of which had to be conducted in Dallas because McLennan County is not required by law to have a medical examiner. While the point of “Kari’s Law” will be to eliminate the discretion in determining death and put that in the hands of a medical professional it seems that McLennan County should be able to hire a medical examiner based on the amount of funds that are already being expended to send these crucial cases to Dallas.
Accordingly, we are asking that you advocate for “Kari’s Law.” Since causes of death are not always obvious, especially when criminals go to great lengths to deceive law enforcement officers, “Kari’s Law” would require either a full or partial autopsy in cases where a person dies as a result of suicide. Texas does not need to experience another State v. Baker, and Texas families should not have to request a formal inquest hearing in order to find the truth."
NOTE: The docstoc.com site wasn't working right. I have uploaded these documents to Google Docs and it seems to be working fine. OR you can email me and I will attach them in my email reply. There will be some instructions in bold print at the top of each letter you download. After you make the appropriate changes to customize your letters, don’t forget to delete the instructions at the top. Thanks so much!