Autopsy sentence misses bodies

Posted March 20, 2009, at 9:02 p.m.

It’s an odd wish, I know, but ever since I read my first autopsy report, I’ve always hoped that when my time is up that I leave this world in an unquestionable manner with no need for an autopsy.

I know there are those of you out there who would relish the opportunity to pore over the grisly, most personal details of such a document. I might have felt the same way had I not been in a position to read more than my fair share during a couple of decades of police and court reporting.

A reporting career can offer an array of adventures and opportunities and mine has, some thoroughly enjoyable and exciting, others mundane, tragic and gruesome.

On occasion I have been asked whether I’ve ever witnessed an autopsy. Usually the question is posed by someone who has some sort of morbid curiosity and desire to see one themselves.

For the record I haven’t. Nor would I ever care to, and I’ve never been able to figure out a circumstance in which I would have to.

I hope to end my time here with that box left unchecked on the life experience list.

Reading the reports and watching an occasional episode of “CSI” is as close as I care to come.

To that end I must hope that I’m never in a heap of trouble and standing before York County Superior Court Justice Paul Fritzsche.

In case you missed it, Fritzsche sentenced a 19-year-old Limerick man to witness an autopsy of a victim of an alcohol-related accident as part of his punishment for striking and severely injuring a pedestrian with his snowmobile and then apparently leaving the scene.

According to the prosecutor, the victim’s family asked the judge to hand down the unusual punishment, which he did earlier this week.

Patrick Rosa also was sentenced to 120 days in jail. He had pleaded guilty to reckless conduct and criminal trespass in the Dec. 28, 2007, crash.

Some may feel that is apt punishment for such depraved behavior, a rightful lesson, an unusual but fitting piece of justice.

Perhaps, but I have a question.

Just whose autopsy is he going to witness? If it’s your loved one on that table in the morgue, do you want 19-year-old Patrick by his or her side as the organs are removed and weighed, as the medical examiner notes verbally into a tape recorder the condition of your loved one’s fingernails and various body orifices?

I’m not quite sure I’d be willing to sacrifice the dignity of my loved one for the court system’s quest to teach Patrick a lesson.

And would the medical examiner even allow such a thing?

But perhaps Justice Fritzsche considered this as he handed down the sentence, because then he added a couple of caveats. For example, if it can’t be arranged for him to see a real live autopsy, perhaps Patrick can view one on TV, or if not, maybe he can just view a video of a car crash investigation.

It seems to me to be a heck of a leap between witnessing an autopsy firsthand and watching what might be the equivalent of a bad driver’s education video of a car crash.

If nothing else, then perhaps Justice Fritzsche should have settled that matter before the sentencing in open court.

Patrick Rosa seriously injured Darrin Smith and could just as easily have killed him.

Perhaps viewing an autopsy would straighten him out, but personally I’d feel safer if he lost his privilege to drive a snowmobile and a motor vehicle.

Surely there are some medical expenses involved for Mr. Smith. Is there a way to attach this young man’s pay for many years to come?

As one reader commented online regarding the autopsy sentencing: “That is a punishment? People will pay to view that on the Internet.”

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