A Coroner's inquest may be held when a decedent's death is a result of a traumatic or violent event. The inquest is conducted by the Coroner or Chief Deputy. In Rock Island County, inquests are usually scheduled the first Wednesday of the month. All inquests are held at the Juvenile Justice Center which is located at 525 18th Street Rock Island, Illinois 61201. A jury of six is selected utilizing names forwarded to the Coroner's Office from the courthouse.
The purpose of the inquest is to present pertinent information concerning the victim's death in order for the jury to arrive at a cause and manner of death. The cause of death is often readily apparent and obvious based on the facts, circumstances, medical evidence and in some cases toxicology and autopsy reports. The real essence of the juror's responsibility is to establish the manner of death (suicide, homicide, reckless homicide, accident, natural or undetermined.)
The Coroner will summon to the inquest those individuals who have pertinent information concerning the accident. This often includes, but is not limited to the person who found the deceased, witnesses to the accident, those involved police officers and investigators, and in some instances a direct relative. All individuals summoned will present testimony (answer questions) to the jury. Any professional reports (autopsy, toxicology, x-ray, and laboratory reports) will be presented at that time. These reports are not released to the public until the inquest procedures occur.
All information and testimony at the inquest is recorded and/or transcribed. All such information will be documented verbatim in an inquest transcript available approximately three weeks after the inquest. This transcript may be reviewed in the Coroner's Office at no charge. A copy of the transcript may be purchased at $3.00 per page pursuant to Illinois State Statute.
The inquest is open to the public and may not be closed pursuant to any requests to do so. Anyone may attend. We do not publish inquest dates and times, but if someone would request notification, they are so honored by telephone at least five days preceding the inquest.
Attorneys are welcome to attend. The need for an attorney is purely an individual decision. This office neither recommends nor advises concerning any attorney attendance, the exception being the Rock Island County State's Attorney, who is notified of all inquests in Rock Island County. Attorneys are allowed to ask questions of witnesses as a courtesy only, and such questions are directed to be a maximum of two or three of each witness. Questioning again is a courtesy which may be revoked at any time. The family or anyone else will not be permitted to question the witness nor supply their own witnesses.
Upon completion of testimony, the Coroner's jury will deliberate in private. They may request additional testimony, evidence, or conference as they deem necessary. When the jury has concluded their deliberation they will issue a verdict through the foreman as to the manner of death (accident, homicide, reckless homicide, natural or undetermined).
The Coroner's verdict has no civil or criminal trial significance. The verdict and inquest proceedings are merely fact finding in nature and statistical in purpose. However, if a person is implicated as the unlawful slayer of the deceased or accessory thereto an arrest may be effected. This is extremely rare. This function is now performed by the State's Attorney through Grand Jury proceedings.
The testimony present at the inquest is sworn and under oath and properly documented and/or recorded. Because of this, the testimony may subsequently be used in perjury proceedings if such testimony should change in future civil or criminal trial proceedings.