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Milwaukee law proposal would require special steps in high-profile death investigations

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MILWAUKEE (WTAQ) - Milwaukee’s medical examiner opposes a city ordinance to require special procedures in investigating high-profile deaths – including suspects in police custody.

The measure comes in the wake of robbery suspect Derek Williams’ death while he was held by Milwaukee Police last summer.

A newly-released video showed Williams gasping and begging for help in a squad car for almost 8 minutes before he collapsed.

County medical examiner Brian Peterson says his office has already adopted the changes that Milwaukee aldermen are seeking. And if the ordinance is passed, he fears that the medical examiner’s office will lose up to two national accreditations, because political influence will have seeped into the decisions of death investigators.

Peterson says those investigators must remain independent.

The medical examiner recently changed the cause of Williams’ death from natural causes to homicide, without reviewing the findings which led to the original conclusion.

The Milwaukee ordinance would require all reports to be reviewed in high-profile cases, a peer review of autopsy findings, and agreement by the chief medical examiner before a cause of death is determined.

After Peterson’s objections, a Milwaukee committee voted 6 to 1 Thursday to further study the issue.

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