Shelby County Medical Examiner Dr. O. C. Smith was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury.
The indictment alleges that he gave false statements to authorities investigating a bizarre attack in which Smith was bound with barbed wire and had a homemade bomb strapped to his chest. He is also charged with unlawful possession of an explosive.
The indictment has potentially huge ramifications because Smith has given expert testimony in thousands of criminal cases during his career. Many of those cases are now likely to be reexamined. One of them is the capital murder conviction of death row inmate Philip Workman. Smith gave post-conviction testimony in that case.
The indictment was returned late Tuesday afternoon following months of grand jury investigation.
For more than a year, The Memphis Flyer
was the only local news agency to report skeptically
about the Smith case and publicly suggest it was a hoax. The newspaper published interviews with investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and nationally known medical examiners Cyril Wecht
and Michael Baden in which they expressed doubt that the attack could have happened the way Smith claimed it did. The Flyer
was also the first to report
that Smiths office had let its certification lapse.
The first official indication of problems with Smiths story came last year when Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton announced that he would seek a new medical examiner in light of new information about the case. The execution of Workman was postponed based on the same information.
Smith was attacked after leaving his office near downtown. The Medical Examiners office had previously been the target of a mysterious incident in which a homemade bomb was left in the stairwell.
Neither the bomb in the stairwell nor the one on Smith exploded. He has steadfastly refused to give interviews about the incident to reporters. The public was left to believe that a mad bomber or perhaps even a terrorist was on the loose, and police and federal investigators spent countless hours chasing down Smiths wild claims.