America’s criminal justice system is a finely tuned machine with one purpose; justice for all. While good old-fashioned detective work, canvassing, questioning and sometimes a gut instinct will never be replaced during investigations into criminal activity, the fastest evolving part of an investigation is the forensic science.
As citizens of this great nation, we are constantly in search of a way to make sure that no innocent person is punished and no guilty person gets off scot-free. However, the more sadistic and creative the criminals get, the more tedious and meticulous those who try to catch them might be. While this looks like a few trips to a computer on TV shows, the reality is that forensic science is a dirty business and one that most of us don’t completely understand.
In order to determine things like how long a person has been dead, scientists and investigators need to actually observe a body decompose in a controlled environment, and that’s just is happening at a body farm in Texas. Daily Mail reports that the bodies are exposed to the elements and covered with cages to keep scavengers off them, and while it’s for a good cause, it’s truly horrific to see:
“These gruesome images show the inside of a body farm – a graveyard where the dead are left to rot in open cages.
Rows upon row of dead bodies are lined up in the metal pens in the remote Texan field as part of scientific research into how corpses rot.
In fact, despite its grisly appearance, the so-called body farms actually help police solve crimes by helping to determine when victims were killed.”
Scientists at The Forensic Anthropology Centre at Texas State University are able to use the donated dead bodies and compare them to those killed in suspicious circumstances.
The information gathered here can be used in a court of law and researchers have been called to give evidence for the prosecution and defense. The bodies can also be used to help with facial reconstruction.
By using the skulls and images of those who volunteer for the open burial scientists can help police to reconstruct what an actual victim may have looked like.
They often have worked in law enforcement so know how useful the facilities are, decomposition expert Dr. Danny Wescott told CBS Austin.”
Just like a person can choose to be an organ donor, someone can also donate their body to science after they pass on. This is just one of the possibilities for what could be done with someone who makes that donation. It’s far from a pleasant sight to see, however, the work is one of those unpleasant necessities to keep crime down.
Without endeavors like this one, the forensic departments would have no way of training their scientists to determine exact times of death, which markings on a body come from attacks and which come from scavengers, etc. That is important, not only in the sense that it helps bring justice for the families of those killed, but knowing that it’s getting increasingly more difficult to get away with a crime, keeps crime down. Behavior will always depend on its consequences, and without an effective way to punish attackers, more attacks would happen.
Dr. Danny Wescott has spent a number of years leading the research of skeletons at the US university.
He said: ‘It allows us to see how bodies decompose. We work with law enforcement officials and help with the training of local police cadets.
‘We get bodies given to us specifically to use. Living donors offer their bodies as donations. We also take next of kin donation.
‘We have two criteria for the bodies – they must be under 500 pounds when they die. And they must not have any active infectious diseases like hepatitis C. We also accept cremains.
‘It then gets assigned to a research project. The bodies can be left out in the field for six months to a couple of years.
‘The skeleton is then used for further research. In fact, most of the research is done on skeletons.’
To be a part of the body farm most people volunteer before their death – although some are donated by next of kin. Police then observe how different factors influence the way the bodies decompose.
‘Law enforcement provides different scenarios and we look at the effects of clothing and things like diabetes on the body,’ Dr. Wescott said.
‘It allows us to give estimations on death to the police. We can also help with facial reconstruction.
‘Because we know what the person looked like before they died we can compare this with what those who draw the facial reconstruction images have come up with.
‘We also look at the ecology side – and how it impacts specifically on insects. We have scientists here from the UK because there is a demand for it.’
The bodies have to be caged to protect them from vultures, which are rife in Texas.
‘At the moment we have between 65 and 70 bodies. There are more men than women but we also get some couples who donate their bodies,’ Dr.Wescott said.
This might not be the kind of place that you want to go on a family vacation, but it might just be what keeps the streets a little safer wherever you do take your vacation. Like many of the aspects of law enforcement, this isn’t a particularly pleasant task, but one that has to be done if we are going to try to keep our nation safe.
[H/T: Daily Mail]