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JSU death expert launches podcast for science fans

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Joseph Scott Morgan

Joseph Scott Morgan

The science of death is the topic of a podcast recently begun by an associate professor of applied forensics at Jacksonville State University.

Titled “Body Bags,” the podcast hosted by Joseph Scott Morgan focuses on the scientific reason a criminally caused death occurred — less so on the narrative of the crime itself. 

The podcast has garnered national attention since its release Sept. 29, promoted by crime news personality Nancy Grace, with whom Morgan has worked for several years.  

Morgan said the goal of his podcast is to bring people closer to the scientific reality of death than they might otherwise be in an age of hospitals, morgues and funeral homes. Rural folk generations ago, he noted, were more intimate with the rituals of death, even if they were ignorant as to the cause.

“My job is to demystify and talk about the basic science,” Morgan said. “I'm of the opinion that anybody can learn science and what more basic way to learn science than through death because it’s part of the natural biological process?”

Upon the insistence of many of his peers and being no stranger to the media, Morgan said he started “Body Bags” after mulling the idea over for a while. 

“Body Bags” is different from the average true-crime podcast, he said, in that rather than focusing on the narrative of the crime, Morgan gives his expertise on the forensics of the cases he covers. 

Morgan said his driving force in life has been to teach. He has a piece of paper posted near his computer in his recording studio, he said, that bears the simple word “Teach” —  reminding him to bring that into everything he does. 

“I felt as though that there’s a grand void in the podcast world relative to forensics,” Morgan said in a recent interview with Law and Crime Daily. “Yes, I had been a death investigator and a forensic scientist, but you know I’ve spent the better part of two decades as an educator.”

Morgan said he regularly appears on national television as well as Grace’s podcast on Crimeonline.com, broadcasting from his home in Jacksonville. 

“I’m her forensics guy,” Morgan said. “We’ve done it for a while. We started in ’17 and she’s been so good about promoting JSU. I mention JSU all the time and you know, she gets like 4 million downloads a month on crimeonline.” 

Morgan said “Body Bags” is promoted under Grace’s banner on Crimeonline.com and that his podcast was one of the first she had launched outside of her own. 

Morgan said he has been appearing with Grace since before being hired at JSU in 2014. He said as her forensics guy, Grace gave him a nickname. 

“My moniker is Joe Scott. That’s what she says, if you ever listen to any of her podcasts. She’ll say, ‘Joe Scott what do ya got!’”

His connection with JSU is noted whenever he’s in a public interview situation.

“Joseph Scott Morgan represents JSU well on all of his media platforms,” JSU President Don Killingsworth, Jr. said. “We are fortunate to have someone of his caliber teaching our students the latest in forensics.”

The show launched its first episode with the nationally known Gabby Petito case when the manner of death was released by investigators. Morgan goes back and revisits the case in episode three to discuss the cause of death and will revisit it again to discuss the findings of Brian Laundrie’s remains. 

“The world is not a veiled place like it was prior to the ’90s,” Morgan said. “People are ingesting this information and they’re wanting to understand it.”

Morgan's career with forensics began when he took a job as an autopsy assistant at 20 years old — a job he said was once referred to as a diener. The term “diener,” Morgan explained, is a German word that is derived from a longer term, which literally translated means “corpse servant.” 

His love for forensics, however, began much earlier with discussions with his grandmother about the old practices of serving loved ones after they had passed — a days long family affair of preparing the body for burial. Morgan said this was important to the mourning processes to allow the person to cope with the death and make it real. 

His name “Joseph” was given to him after his late uncle, Joseph Killian, who was a victim of homicide. 

“That mythology kind of came down through my family, so when I was born, he was this honored person,” Morgan said.

Namesake aside, Morgan said for years he went by “Joe” until he met his wife. He said she told him, “You know you’re not an average Joe — you’re a Joseph.”

Morgan also has a documentary movie releasing on Peacock streaming service in November.