For the first time in 40 years, Orleans Parish will have a new coroner. And the race has attracted three contenders: Dr. Vincent Culotta, Dr. Dwight McKenna, and Dr. Jeffrey Rouse.
Though one of the chief complaints about the Orleans Parish Coroner’s Office is the lack of modern methods and technology needed to properly perform duties, the Coroner’s Office is charged death investigation, toxicology screening, sexual assault services and mental health services.
Candidates in the race are almost certain to build their campaigns around promises of improving and updating office’s performance as well as rebuilding public trust and integrity, which has suffered in the wake of several high-profile cases in which many believe retiring Coroner Dr. Frank Minyard has dropped the ball in accurately classify certain deaths, including the murder of Anthony Glover who was shot by NOPD officers, in the days following Hurricane Katrina. Glover’s burned body (minus his skull) was discovered in vehicle set on fire in Algiers.
Dr. Dwight McKenna, who founded The New Orleans Tribune nearly 30 years ago and more recently established the George and Leah McKenna Museum of African-American Art, is optimistic about becoming Orleans Parish’s next coroner.
Dr. McKenna, who has practiced medicine for more than 43 years and opened his office in New Orleans about 40 years ago, says he understands the magnitude of the coroner’s job and recognizes that families rely on the coroner’s fair, objective, factual and professional consideration to bring closure and justice in the loss of loved ones. He promises that each death will be thoroughly and professionally investigated so that every case is properly classified. And if he is elected, one of the first things McKenna says he will do is reopen any cases that have not been given a properly classified cause of death.
“I don’t care how far back it has to go,” say McKenna, who would be the Parish’s first Black coroner if elected. “That’s the first thing that needs to be done.”
McKenna, a former member of the Orleans Parish School Board who has long been a champion for equity and opportunity for young Black males, says he also will use his position as coroner to talk about public health issues, including deadly impact of violence in the community.
As Coroner, Dr. McKenna promises to bring competency, honesty, and transparency to the Office and says he will work with local, state and federal agencies to secure the proper funding necessary to modernize the Coroner’s Office.
Dr. Vincent Culotta and Dr. Jeffrey Rouse
Attempts to reach Drs. Vincent Culotta and Jeffrey Rouse were unsuccessful.