House Bill No. 137

Introduced By smith, beck

A Bill for an Act entitled: "An Act changing from mandatory to discretionary an inquest for a convicted prisoner whose death is caused by a terminal illness or the death sentence; and amending section

46-4-201, MCA."

Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Montana:

Section 1.  Section 46-4-201, MCA, is amended to read:

"46-4-201.   Inquest -- definition, -- when held, -- how conducted. (1) An inquest is a formal inquiry into the causes of and circumstances surrounding the death of any a person and is conducted by the coroner before a coroner's jury.

(2)  The coroner shall may hold an inquest only if requested to do so by the county attorney of the county in which death occurred or by the county attorney of the county in which the acts or events causing death occurred. However, the county attorney shall order the coroner to hold an inquest if the death of any a person occurs:

(a) in a prison, jail, or other penal correctional institution and is not caused by the terminal illness of, or the execution of a death penalty upon, the person while the person is incarcerated in the prison, jail, or other correctional institution because of conviction of a criminal offense,; or

(b) while a person is being taken into custody or is in the custody of a peace officer, or if the death is caused by a peace officer, except where when criminal charges have been or will be filed, the county attorney shall order the coroner to hold an inquest.

(3)  If an inquest is held, the proceedings are public. The coroner shall conduct the inquest with the aid and assistance of the county attorney. The coroner shall, and the county attorney may, examine each witness, after which the witness may be examined by the jurors. The inquest is to must be held in accordance with this part.

(4)  (a) A coroner who also serves as a peace officer may not conduct an inquest into the death of a person who:

(i)  died in a jail or penal institution;

(ii) died while in the custody of a peace officer; or

(iii) was killed by a peace officer.

(b)  If a coroner is disqualified under subsection (4)(a), the county attorney shall request a qualified coroner of a neighboring county to conduct the inquest. The expenses of a coroner fulfilling the request, including salary, must be paid by the requesting county."