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Ramsey County says medical examiner is in compliance

Following a news report Tuesday that Ramsey County Medical Examiner Dr. Michael McGee is being investigated in connection with his testimony in a murder case, Ramsey County officials said an administrative review shows that he is in compliance with state statutes.

The review, by Deputy County Manager Heather Worthington, was started Tuesday morning and completed Tuesday afternoon, said MPR, which initially had the story about McGee.

Here’s the county’s release:

Ramsey County Clarifies Medical Examiner Story

ST. PAUL, MN, SEPT. 6, 2011 — This morning, Minnesota Public Radio broadcast a story about a case involving Ramsey County’s Medical Examiner, Dr. Michael McGee. The story made reference to a Douglas County case in which Dr. McGee was brought in by local law enforcement to conduct a second autopsy of Avryonna Hansen, a three-and-a-half-month-old. The Douglas County Coroner’s Office began the autopsy, but found a complex skull fracture during the course of the autopsy, and recommended to law enforcement that a forensic pathologist also examine Avryonna’s body. Dr. McGee is often called in these situations, as he has a statewide and regional reputation for his forensic pathology work, and is the ME for 13 counties throughout Minnesota, in addition to Ramsey and Washington.

 Dr. McGee testified in the trial of Michael Ray Hansen, Avryonna’s father, who was eventually convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 174 months in prison. On September 16, 2010, the Innocence Project of Minnesota filed a petition for post-conviction relief on Hansen’s behalf, and requested a hearing. The Douglas County Court granted the request and on July 13, 2011, Judge Peter Irvine granted a motion for a new trial in this case. In his findings, Judge Irvine ruled that Mr. Hansen had “met the compulsory prongs of the Larrison test for newly discovered evidence of false testimony. Dr. McGee’s testimony regarding the symptoms and clinical course of a child with a skull fracture like Avryonna’s and Avryonna’s shopping cart fall was false or incorrect. The jury might have reached a different conclusion in Mr. Hansen’s case without this testimony.”

 The judge did not rule Dr. McGee’s testimony false, as MPR reported. He ruled that there was evidence that the testimony might have been false or incorrect, an important distinction.

 In the MPR story on Ramsey County’s Medical Examiner, Ramsey County Manager Julie Kleinschmidt is quoted as saying that the County is “investigating his work in the Hansen case.” This is not an accurate statement. Dr. McGee is not under investigation by the County. The County has, however, conducted an administrative review, which is typical practice for the County in these situations.

 Ramsey County’s review found the following:

  • Dr. McGee is in compliance with Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 390, and is upholding his responsibilities both statutorily and administratively;
  • Dr. McGee’s Professional Association, M.B. McGee, P.A., is in compliance with the County’s contract for provision of Medical Examiner services. The contract was renewed on March 30, 2011; and
  • The County will monitor the outcome of the pending retrial in Douglas County court that was referenced in MPR’s story. In this case, other medical professionals disagreed with Dr. McGee’s interpretation of the autopsy results and evidence. The County believes that the Courts are the appropriate venue for providing legal oversight of medical examiners, including Dr. McGee.

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