Approaching Death At The County Morgue

For three years as Harris County's chief medical examiner, Dr. Joye Carter has been haunted by controversy. Can she survive?

It is hoped, for Carter's sake, this newfound spirit of cooperation has not come too late. But it may not be enough for her to overcome the legal battles still ahead, especially the hearing that could lead to a possible censure by the state Board of Medical Examiners. Harris County Judge Robert Eckels, one of Carter's chief supporters, says only that a censure is something he and the other members of commissioners court will have to deal with at the time.

"It would depend," says Eckels, "upon the sanction, and what it was for."

Sitting in the conference room of the Dr. Joseph A. Jachimczyk Forensic Center, with the portrait of Dr. Joe on the wall behind her, Dr. Joye Carter concludes an interview with the Press by declaring that she believes the majority of her employees support the job she is doing and are eager to get on with the business of investigating death instead of dodging in-house sniper fire.

"This is a fighting staff," says Carter. "And the staff is tired of this stuff. We're all kind of tired of it. And we have work to do."

Indeed, they do — and have. But after three years on the job, Dr. Joye Carter might still find it difficult to be confident that she'll be around long enough to finish what she started.

E-mail Steve McVicker at steve_mcvicker@houstonpress.com.

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