Sunday, May 26, 2013
A judge in Jackson County has denied a request for a court order permitting the exhumation of more than 50 unmarked graves at the former Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, saying state law already gives a medical examiner authority to do so. In an opinion issued Friday, Circuit Judge William Wright reasoned that the decision about whether to permit the exhumation is not for the court to make. A state permit, under which University of South Florida anthropologists have operated as they try to pinpoint where the graves are and who might be buried in them, is enough for them to continue their work, the judge said. If they unearth human remains, the medical examiner would have the authority to investigate.
“Any further excavation by USF will be with state permission on state property,” Wright wrote. “The medical examiner does not need a court order to carry out his statutory duties if human remains are found.” Wright noted that the exhumations should be done in pursuit of a possible criminal investigation — and not as just fishing expeditions. At the end of his order, Wright urged officials to proceed with “caution” and quoted a 1949 case that says the “quiet of the grave, the repose of the dead, are not lightly to be disturbed.”