The Georgia Senate passed a bill, sponsored by Sen. Hardie Davis, D-Augusta, that seeks to clarify current law on a coroner’s obligations regarding unclaimed objects or property of deceased people.
The legislation passed by a vote of 51-0. Senate Bill 383 now transfers to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Davis said Wednesday that the bill is in the House’s judiciary committee and his goal is to have a hearing within the next few days. The bill was needed to close loopholes in the current law, he said.
Current law states that coroners and county medical examiners who are unable to locate family members of the deceased are to take possession of and inventory all property found on the person, and surrender this property to those entitled to take custody of the possessions. The Senate bill clarifies that this property should not be converted to the coroner’s personal use.
Davis said he wants the law to be clear so everyone understands what happens to a deceased person’s personal effects, even in cases where such property is used in any investigation.
Former Richmond County Coroner Grover Tuten was indicted in January on charges of theft and violation of oath of office. According to an indictment, Tuten is accused of stealing cash, vehicles and other property from the dead, and keeping money for burial services and sales of property that should have gone into the county’s coffers for several years.
Tuten has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is free on bond pending trial. Tuten, 70, resigned his elected office on Feb. 20. He worked in the coroner’s office for nearly 36 years.