Bodies come to the morgue in white body bags-- that way you are able to see hair, fibers, etc... The bodies are kept in coolers whose temperature should be at 38 degrees Fahrenheit, just above freezing but cold enough to prevent the growth of bacteria and decomposition changes. In the autopsy suite, there is usually a large, stainless steel autopsy table in the middle of the room. There is also a scale hanging from the ceiling, a smaller steel table with a corkboard dissecting block, and tools. Some of these tools include scalpels, a large knife, pruning clipper, and a vibrating bone saw. An autoposy table has two tiers. The top, on which the corpse lies, allows flowing water and body fluids to seep through to the second tier which serves as a catch basin.

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Usually present in a homicide autopsy are the police working the crime, an assistant D.A., the diener (autopsy assistant), and the medical examiner. Sometimes these might be accompanied by a police photographer, forensic pathologist, forensic nurse, or emergency medical student in training. The detective tells the medical examiner who the body is, what seems to have happened, who last spoke to him/her, when and where the body was found. Smell is important in an autopsy. A bitter almond odor of cyanide retells the tale of poisoning. Alcohol can be smelled-- ethanol has a distinctly sweet smell.

A measured height and estimated weight is given. Then photographs are taken from every angle. Bags come off the hands and fingernail scrapings are taken. Whatever is on the body is then removed, i.e. clothes and jewelry, and X rays of the body are taken. The body is then washed and if there are wounds they will be examined-- measured for length and width, photographed once with a ruler and once without. This is also a good time to look for tattoos. The body will be turned on its side for a full examination and then the scalpel is raised.