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Released November 12, 2004


HATTIESBURG - Dr. Michael Baden, star of the hit HBO series "Autopsy," and other top forensic scientists from around the nation will present topics during The University of Southern Mississippi's "Forensic Science Seminar at Sea" this spring. The weeklong cruise aboard Carnival Cruise Lines offers students course credit and access to some of the field's leading authorities, coupled with leisurely stops in Calica/Playa del Carmen and Cozumel, Mexico. Participants will depart from New Orleans on March 12 and return there March 17.

Evening workshops onboard will include crime scene investigation, fingerprinting techniques, forensic nursing, alternate light sources and courtroom exhibit preparations. Trade vendors will also be present with the newest forensic technologies, including Spex Forensics, Armour Forensics, Sirchie, Foster Freeman, Ron Smith and Associates, Evident, and the Lynn Peavey Company.

"I will be teaching students things they can do to make themselves better witnesses," said Smith, founder of Ron Smith and Associates, a forensic consultation and technical training company located in Meridian. "Today's jurors vote based on their perception of the truth that day, and so much of that comes from the quality of the presentation in the courtroom."

"So, even though a witness might know what to say, it's how they say it that is critical; hopefully, we can teach these students how to do it before they get their start in law enforcement."

The cruise is the second trip offered by the Forensic Science Department at Southern Miss, which was recently given approval by the Mississippi College Board to expand from a minor to a full-fledged bachelor's and master's program. Last summer, about 100 students participated in the seminar's maiden voyage, which featured TV celebrity and leading forensic expert Dr. Henry Lee, star of Court TV's "Trace Evidence: The Case Files of Dr. Henry Lee."

Program director Dean Bertram said 300 slots are available for the cruise, with participants sharing double-occupancy rooms. Participants have the option of taking the seminar for non-credit or academic credit.

Southern Miss will offer a certificate of academic instruction to coroners, deputy coroners, law enforcement officers and other participants who do not enroll for university credit.

"We expect an even better turnout this year," Bertram said. "The interest has been phenomenal. Where else can you have an opportunity to learn so much and have so much fun at the same time? And the panel of forensic scientists is unbelievable. Everyone has tried to get Dr. Michael Baden, but no one has managed to until now."

Baden is the former chief medical examiner of New York City and the author of "Dead Reckoning: The New Science of Catching Killers." Baden is regularly called upon to participate as investigator and expert witness in high-profile murder cases. Past cases have included the murders of JonBenet Ramsey, Nicole Brown Simpson and Sunny von Bulow.

Baden has been the subject of nine HBO specials, including a "best of" show that highlights several of his most interesting cases. Baden is a medical commentator for the Fox News Channel, the "Catherine Crier Show" on Court TV and MSNBC.

Donald Bratton, a junior chemistry major from Ocean Springs, attended last summer's seminar and said it was one of the most unique experiences he's ever had.

"To have access to well-known forensic scientists--and not just in a seminar-type setting, but on a recreational and personal level--you're able to talk about things outside of work and see how they are as people as well as scientists," Bratton said.

Bratton also toured ancient Mayan ruins while in port in Mexico, allowing him to "bond with other students and professionals" in his field.

Other forensic experts scheduled to attend the seminar include Dr. Robert Barsley and Dr. Mary Case.

Barsley, the director of the Louisiana State University School of Dentistry, will teach forensic odontology. Barsely also serves as chair of the odontology section of the American Academy of Forensic Science

Case, the chief medical examiner of four counties in Missouri, will cover forensic pathology and pediatric forensic medicine. A pathology professor at Saint Louis University Health Sciences Center, Case performs more than 300 autopsies a year in an area of eastern Missouri with a population of 1.5 million people.

Smith has worked in the forensic identification field since 1972, including jobs with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington, D.C. He is a specialist in courtroom testimony instruction, latent print examinations and crime scene examinations and has provided expert witness testimony in more than 500 hundred cases.

For more information about the "Forensic Science Seminar at Sea," call Dean Bertram at (601) 266-5124 or Linda Bass at (601) 266-4189.


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December 8, 2004 10:01 AM