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Talking Points: Medical examiner's 34 years of work now under question

Ramsey County Medical Examiner's 34 years of work now under question
Ramsey County Medical Examiner's 34 years of work now under question 04:43

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- It's a scenario that seems out of a movie -- 71 autopsies in murder cases are under review because the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's work has come under question.

Dr. Michael McGee served in that position for 34 years, from 1985 to 2019. 

Earlier this month, Attorney General Keith Ellison vacated the conviction of Thomas Rhodes, who had served 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife. Ellison cited the findings by McGee.

This followed the 2021 scathing rebuke of McGee's work in the Alfonso Rodriguez case. Rodriguez was convicted in the 2003 murder of college student Dru Sjodin. A federal judge blasted McGee's work in that case saying McGee was "guessing" on the stand and his testimony was "unreliable, misleading and inaccurate." As a result the death sentence in that case was overturned. Rodriguez's murder conviction, though, still stands. 

It was after that ruling by Judge Ralph Erickson that Ramsey County Attorney John Choi began looking at McGee's other cases. Choi looked at 270 cases, eliminated those where the death was clear-cut. He was left with 71 cases where the verdict depended on McGee's analysis, which they're now reviewing.

Serious questions about McGee's work had surfaced back in 2011. Choi was a guest on WCCO Sunday Morning at 10:30a.m. and said:

"There was a judge in Douglas County who had come to the conclusion that, in an infant death case, his conclusions were false or misleading. So because of that we did a very narrow review around infant death cases and we found a number of things. We found that Dr. McGee hadn't been connected to the latest research on that topic, and he wasn't participating in the Association of Medical Examiners."

McGee's work has stretched far beyond Washington County. He regularly performed autopsies for other Minnesota counties that did not have their own medical examiner. He also performed autopsies in Wisconsin counties. 

Over more than three decades, McGee has performed thousands of local autopsies and now there are questions about how many other cases should be reviewed. 

WCCO could not reach McGee for comment

You can watch WCCO Sunday Morning with Esme Murphy and meteorologist Joseph Dames every Sunday at 6 and 10:30 a.m.

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