- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 24, 2017

BOSTON (AP) - Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday named Dr. Mindy Hull to be the state’s chief medical examiner, succeeding Dr. Henry Nields, who retired this year after nine years in the post.

Baker said Hull, who has been a pathologist in the medical examiner’s office since 2007, has the professional experience necessary to take over the top job, which the Republican governor said plays a “critical role” in the state’s criminal justice system.

Secretary of Public Safety and Security Dan Bennett, who oversees the medical examiner’s office, praised Hull’s skills as a pathologist and an investigator.

In a statement, Hull said the team she will lead consists of “tireless and dedicated individuals who are responsible for investigating, documenting, and understanding the unexplained, unattended, or mysterious deaths that occur across (Massachusetts).”

Nields was appointed chief medical examiner by Democratic then-Gov. Deval Patrick and was asked to begin a turnaround of an office that had been plagued by chronic understaffing and mismanagement. State officials have said the agency, which has a $9.6 million annual budget, has since reduced wait times for death investigations and hired additional staff.

One of Hull’s most prominent investigations involved the case of Joshua Messier, a patient at Bridgewater State Hospital who died in 2009 after being restrained by prison guards. Hull ruled the case a homicide, though Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz initially declined to bring charges.

A special prosecutor later appointed to the case filed manslaughter and civil rights charges against three guards. The case was among the catalysts for a set of reforms ordered by state officials at the facility, which houses prison inmates with mental illnesses.

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