Dr. Michael Baden, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy of the Ferguson, Missouri shooting victim Michael Brown, discussed the morbid and complex science behind autopsies and the process of human decay Tuesday evening in the Student Union Ballroom.
Baden is known for taking part in high-profile investigations like the O.J Simpson case, re-investigations into both the John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. assassinations, and the death of famed comedian John Belushi.
“Thank you for that wonderful opening. Sounded just like a eulogy,” Baden joked to Hugh Berryman, director of MTSU’s Forensics Institute for Research and Education (FIRE).
Baden discussed the process of examining the deceased, lacing dry scientific jargon with gallows humor.
“You see, medical examiners have a different lifestyle than normal people,” Baden said. “To us what’s in the stomach, vomit, that’s good because it tells us about the last food in the stomach…we also love maggots. Maggots can tell us how long someone’s been dead.”
According to Baden, examining all has to do with intricate details.
Accompanying Baden’s speech was a slide show of bodies decaying, skulls and bones, and the contents of dead celebrities’ stomachs. But the talk remained anatomical, never becoming overly macabre.
Baden told numerous stories from his career, particularly his involvement with the investigation of Medgar Evers, a civil rights activist assassinated in 1963.
Almost 30 years after his death, the Evers case was re-opened for investigation, and the exhumation of his casket found that his body was almost perfectly preserved. Ever’s son, who was four at the time his father died, never thought he would meet his father but got to chance to see his body. At this time, Evers son was the same as as his father when he was killed.
Baden’s talk, officially titled “Out of the Grave: Decomposition and Exhumation”, ended with a brief Q&A segment and a book signing outside.
The event was part of the William M. Bass Legends in Forensic Science Lectureship.
Next spring, the William M. Bass Lectureship will host a lecture event with renowned anthropologist Doug Owsley, a leading figure at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
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