Medical examiner was in compliance, Ramsey County officials say

Ramsey County medical examiner
Dr. Michael McGee, who has been working as Ramsey County's chief medical examiner for 26 years, was recently found to have given false testimony in a Douglas County murder trial.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Ramsey County has completed an administrative review of its longtime chief medical examiner, prompted by his testimony in a murder trial in Alexandria, according to a statement released by the county Tuesday.

Deputy County Manager Heather Worthington said the administrative review didn't find any concerns with the work of chief medical examiner Dr. Michael McGee.

"Dr. McGee has been found to be in compliance with Minnesota statutes and the county's contract for provision of medical examiner services," she said.

Worthington said she began the review Tuesday morning and completed it Tuesday afternoon. Minnesota Public Radio News reported earlier Tuesday that McGee was under investigation by the county as a result of testimony he gave in the trial of Michael Hansen, a man who was convicted of second-degree murder for the 2004 death of his four-month-old daughter, Avryonna Hansen.

Douglas County Judge Peter Irvine found in July that McGee gave false or incorrect testimony in the Hansen case. He granted Hansen a new trial in part because of McGee's testimony and in part because of new evidence about the risks of accidental suffocation. Two other medical examiners disagreed with McGee's on the cause and manner of death. Hansen was released on bail last month.

Worthington said she didn't look into the details of the case as part of the administrative review.

"The county believes that the courts are the appropriate venue for providing legal oversight of medical examiners, including Dr. McGee," she said.

Last month, Ramsey County manager Julie Kleinschmidt told MPR News that she was investigating McGee's handling of the case and was in discussions with McGee about the judge's findings.

But Worthington, the deputy county manager, said the county never conducted a formal investigation. She said Kleinschmidt should have called the inquiry an administrative review, not an investigation.

"It's unfortunate that she used that word," Worthington said. "We wanted to make sure we were clear about what was going on."

In the statement released Tuesday, Ramsey County also said Judge Irvine "did not rule Dr. McGee's testimony false, as MPR reported. He ruled that the testimony might have been false or incorrect, an important distinction."

However, Judge Irvine's written order does not say that McGee might have given false testimony. It says, "Dr. McGee's testimony regarding the symptoms and clinical course of a child with a skull fracture like Avryonna's and Avryonna's shopping cart fall was false or incorrect."

The judge added, "The jury might have reached a different conclusion in Mr. Hansen's case without this testimony."

McGee did not respond to requests on Tuesday for comment on the administrative review or the Hansen case. McGee has previously told MPR News that he will not comment on the Hansen trial, citing pending litigation. McGee has served as Ramsey County's chief medical examiner since 1985. He also serves as the medical examiner for at least 14 other counties.

Ramsey County says it will monitor the outcome of the retrial in Douglas County. That trial is scheduled to begin September 26.

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