By JEFF AMY
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – A federal trial is scheduled to start Monday over claims by six black-owned funeral homes that a Mississippi Gulf Coast coroner illegally discriminates in favor of two white-owned competitors.
The dispute revolves around cases where Harrison County pays for a body to be picked up, stored, autopsied or buried.
U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett, in pretrial rulings, has indicated the key question will be proving whether Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove made the decisions about where to direct bodies in each instance.
Hargrove and Harrison County, which would have to pay damages, argue that in many cases, others controlled where bodies went. That means Hargrove wouldn’t be liable because without deciding, he couldn’t illegally discriminate.
The six black funeral homes say they’re owed $870,000 in damages for 2012 to 2016.