Nation & World

Florida medical examiner who autopsied Anna Nicole Smith ousted

He became a celebrity medical examiner after the death of Anna Nicole Smith, appearing on national television and being interviewed by the likes of Nancy Grace and Larry King.

In his 17-year-career with Broward County, Chief Medical Examiner Joshua Perper signed the death certificates of thousands, including models, athletes and gambling moguls.

But one day after Gov. Rick Scott declined to reappoint Perper to another three-year term, the 78-year-old opted to announce his retirement.

Perper said he plans to write a book.

His reputation suffered a serious blow last year after federal agents determined his office erred in the 2009 autopsy of 87-year-old Bernice Novack, widow of Fontainebleau Hotel owner Ben Novack Sr. Perper ruled it a slip-and-fall accident; further investigation revealed she was beaten over the head with a monkey wrench.

One mistake over 17 years “is a pretty good record,’’ Perper said Thursday.

In a brief letter to the Florida Medical Examiner’s Commission received Wednesday morning, Scott asked for additional names he could consider for the Broward medical examiner’s position, according to Chairman Dr. Bruce Hyma, chief medical examiner for Miami-Dade.

At the same time, Scott announced that he had reappointed eight other district medical examiners, Hyma said.

“It was a surprise,” Hyma said. “In May, the commission forwarded Dr. Perper’s name with a favorable recommendation. His was the only name that was sent up. No explanation was given.”

Doug Culbertson of the Florida Medical Examiner’s Association said the organization makes its recommendations based on surveys sent to the Broward sheriff, police chiefs, public defender, funeral home directors, district attorney, county commissioners, mayors and medical societies. All of Perper’s surveys were favorable, Culbertson said.

Perper said he was stunned by the governor’s announcement.

“I don’t have any reasonable explanation why the governor did that. It is a discretionary appointment, but one would expect that such an explanation would come forward. I would like to know the reason,’’ Perper said.

The governor’s office did not elaborate much on Thursday.

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