Sathyavagiswaran led the department for 21 years prior to his retirement in 2013. The Board of Supervisors voted recently to name him interim coroner.
Supervisor Don Knabe said in an interview that Sathyavagiswaran was one of the most professional department heads he’s worked with.
“He’s always willing to do what he needs to do to do the right job,” Knabe told the media. “He is very sympathetic to the families’ needs. He’s always put that as a top priority in getting the job done as coroner.”
“It’s a very difficult job over there, the department has always had backlog issues, but they’ve worked through it,” Knabe added. “One thing is, Dr. Lakshmanan always worked within existing resources.”
Sathyavagiswaran was thrown into the spotlight during the 1995 double murder trial of O.J. Simpson, who was accused of killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman.
Sathyavagiswaran did not perform the autopsies on the victims, but was called to testify. The coroner spent days on the witness stand. Sathyavagiswaran performed Michael Jackson’s autopsy, testified in the trial of record producer Phil Spector and, in an unusual move, after re-examining the case, he changed Natalie Wood’s 1981 manner of death from “accidental drowning” to “drowning and other undetermined factors.” Following his retirement, Sathyavagiswaran has remained as an on-call forensic pathologist with the coroner’s office, performing autopsies as needed.