Associated Press

N.J. Disciplines Coroner for Bad Autopsy
State Disciplines New Jersey Coroner for Mishandling Autopsy That Led to Murder Charge

The Associated Press

Feb. 25, 2003

A medical examiner whose botched autopsy led to a murder charge against an innocent man has been banned from performing autopsies without state supervision.

State officials announced the sanction against Dr. Elliot Gross, who performed the autopsy on Ellen Andros, 31, after she was found dead in her Pleasantville home in 2001. Gross concluded she died of suffocation and prosecutors later charged her husband, police Officer James Andros III, with her murder.

Andros, who was suspended from his job and lost custody of his two young daughters in the aftermath, was cleared in December after defense experts and a state-appointed pathologist concluded Ellen Andros actually died of a rare heart ailment. Gross admitted the mistake after being confronted, and Andros was cleared.

On Friday, State Medical Examiner Faruk Presswala told Gross he can no longer perform autopsies unless supervised by someone from the State Medical Examiner's office. Gross' work on the Andros case "constituted professional incompetence," according to Presswala, who ordered Gross to perform 20 supervised autopsies and observe 20 others.

In a statement released Tuesday through his lawyer, Gross expressed contrition but contended prosecutors share blame.

"The error contributed to the indictment and aborted criminal proceeding and I will regret it for many years to come," he said. He added, however, that the mistake might have been caught sooner had prosecutors pressed him about the time of death or James Andros' statements, or asked Gross to testify before a grand jury.

Gross, who has declined interview requests, will comply with the restrictions but plans to challenge them. His lawyer, Russell Lichtenstein, said the penalties were imposed without appropriate investigation.

"He had the professional integrity to stand up and say `I need to correct this,'" Lichtenstein said. "The firestorm that has followed Dr. Gross no doubt politically motivated has sent a message to other public servants that they ought not own up to their oversights or mistakes."

Gross has maintained his $142,500-a-year job as medical examiner for Cape May and Cumberland counties.

Junk Science
James Andros, III
Truth in Justice