Right or wrong, the coroner rules

Right or wrong, the coroner rules

Alabamians have been dying in some mighty strange ways. At one time or another in recent years, the state's coroners have listed the following as causes of death:

"Went to bed well and woke up dead."

"Scared to death by the deputy sheriff."

"Rubbed to death by a chiropractor."

"Hit over the head with a slop jar."

"Short-winded."

These incredible displays of ignorance may provoke a smile but there was nothing funny about the time in 1982 when Calhoun County Coroner Ralph Phillips pronounced dead an Alexandria woman who wasn't. Ambulance attendants discovered the error when they heard the woman gasp as they were transporting her to a funeral home.

"They discovered life at 14th and Quintard," recalls a relative of Frankie Hammonds, who had erroneously been pronounced dead after a suicide attempt.

While Mrs. Hammonds's case was unusual, other disturbing incidents have been uncovered by The Star in every corner of the state during an examination of the state coroner system....