But the state also has scaled back its operations since 2007, slashing the number of autopsies its physicians perform by almost 25 percent to about 2,700 per year.
"In a world of unlimited resources, we'd like to do more autopsies, but we don't live in a world of unlimited resources," Grossman said.
A Lack of Qualifications
Despite the ubiquity of forensic pathologists in pop culture, the field has little appeal to most medical school graduates.
To become certified by the American Board of Pathology, doctors must receive an extra year of training in autopsies at a coroner's or medical examiner's office and pass a one-day exam. In addition, forensic pathologists are typically paid less than doctors in other specialties.
By most estimates the United States has only 400 to 500 full-time forensic pathologists. It's a tiny cadre of professionals for a country where roughly 2.5 million people die every year.
Partially because of the shortage of qualified practitioners, many of the nation's busiest coroner and medical examiner offices employ physicians who are not certified.
A survey of more than 60 of the nation's largest medical examiner and coroner offices by ProPublica, PBS "Frontline" and NPR found 105 doctors who have not passed the exam -- or more than 1 in 5 doctors on their full-time and part-time staffs.
Some have recently completed their training and have not had a chance to take the test, which is offered once a year. Others are long-time practitioners who have no plans to become certified.
But in numerous cases, the doctors are not certified because they have failed their exams.
The Arkansas State Medical Examiner's Office employs two forensic pathologists who have flunked their exams multiple times, according to Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Charles Kokes. He described certification as a "personal goal" and said the doctors had no plans to take the test again.
In Kentucky, Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Tracey Corey acknowledged that the state employs a doctor who is not even eligible to take the forensic pathology test because she failed the anatomic pathology exam, which is a prerequisite. "I'm comfortable having her work because I know her competence," Corey said.
The sheriff-coroner in Orange County, Calif., contracts with Juguilon Medical Corporation to provide autopsies. One of the company's doctors has failed the certification exam at least five times, acknowledged Dr. Anthony Juguilon, the company's chief, in an e-mail.
Some experts put little weight on board certification, but many leaders in the field say it's a critical element -- that you can't raise the overall quality of death investigation unless the people who do autopsy work are subject to consistent professional standards.
"What does it mean? It means that they have not demonstrated they have minimum knowledge of the field," said Dr. Vincent Di Maio, the former chief medical examiner for Bexar County, Texas. "And these people get hired."
'I Think We Miss Murders'
Lack of resources has forced Oklahoma to engage in a risky brand of triage.
The state's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has been without its top doctor for nearly a year. Three of its nine slots for forensic pathologists are empty.
Its remaining six doctors handle overwhelming caseloads. Most did between 300 and 400 autopsies last year, said Timothy Dwyer, the state's chief investigator. One did more than 500 -- double the maximum number recommended by the National Association of Medical Examiners.
Because of the grueling pace, the state has had to impose limits on the types of cases it investigates: Oklahoma typically does not autopsy possible suicides or alleged murder-suicides. In most instances, it does not autopsy people age 40 or older who die of unexplained causes.