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Forensic Botany: A Practical Guide

ISBN: 978-1-119-94026-5
256 pages
May 2012, Wiley-Blackwell
Forensic Botany: A Practical Guide (1119940265) cover image
Forensic Botany: A Practical Guide is an accessible introduction to the way in which botanical evidence is identified, collected and analysed in criminal cases. Increasingly this form of evidence is becoming more important in forensic investigation and yet there are few trained botanists able to assist in such cases. This book is intended to show how useful simple collection methods and standard plant analysis can be in the course of such investigations and is written in a clear and accessible manner to enhance understanding of the subject for the non-specialist.

Clearly structured throughout, this book combines well known collection techniques in a field oriented format that can be used for casework. Collection of evidence differs from formal plant collection in that most professional plant collectors are gathering entire plants or significant portions of a plant for permanent storage and reference. Evidence frequently consists of fragments, sometimes exceedingly tiny. Exemplars (examples of reference plants) are collections of plants made in the manner a botanist would collect them. These collections are necessary to link or exclude evidence to or from a scene. Various methods that allow easy collection, transportation, and preservation of evidence are detailed throughout the book.

This book is written for those who have no formal background working with plants. It can be used as a practical guide for students taking forensic science courses, law enforcement training, legal courses, and as a template for plant collection at any scene where plants occur and where rules or laws are involved. Veterinarians, various environmental agencies, anthropologists, and archeologists are examples of disciplines that are more recently in need of plant evidence. Veterinarians are becoming more active in pursuing cases of animals that have been abused or are victims of illegal killing. Anthropologists and archeologists are often called to help with body recovery in outdoor environments. Environmental agencies are increasingly forced to adopt rules for resource protection, are in need of a guide for procedures for plant evidence collection and application.

The format of the book is designed to present the reader with all the information needed to conduct a botanical analysis of a crime scene; to highlight the forensic significance of the botanical evidence that may be present; how to collect that evidence in the correct manner and preserve and store that evidence appropriately- also shows how to conduct a laboratory analysis of the plants.

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List of contributors ix

Series Foreword xi

Prologue: the begining xiii

1 Introduction to forensic botany 1
David W. Hall, Ph.D.

Botanical evidence in legal investigations 1

Legal plant definition 2

Botanical evidence in legal investigations 3

Alibis 5

Timing 5

Gravesite growth 9

Stomach contents 11

Summary 11

2 Plants as evidence 12
David W. Hall, Ph.D.

Types of plants 12

Nonplant groups traditionally studied by botanists 22

Plant habitats and associations 25

Plant characteristics/plant morphology 26

Basic plant characteristics for the forensic investigator 28

Habit 28

Plant dispersal 41

3 Evidence collection and analysis 45
David W. Hall, Ph.D. and Jason H. Byrd, Ph.D.

Initial crime scene notation 55

Where to search for evidence 56

Storage 61

Documentation of botanical evidence 61

How to have botanical evidence analysed 62

Where to find a botanist 63

Types of cases 63

Evidence analysis 63

Laboratory report 65

Transportation of botanical evidence 66

Evidence retention and disposition 66

Step-wise method for the collection of botanical evidence 68

Appendix 3.1 70

Crime scene data 70

Habitat documentation 70

Scene location 70

Collection information needed for each botanical sample 70

Appendix 3.2 72

Botany field data sheet 72

Appendix 3.3 76

Botany laboratory examination data format 76

Appendix 3.4 78

Evidence log 78

4 Expert evidence 79
Bernard A. Raum JD, MFS

The common law 79

The United States experience 80

The decision in Frye v. United States 81

The codified federal rules of evidence 82

The decision in Daubert v. Merrill Dow25 85

The scientific method 86

The “pure opinion” rule 87

The United Kingdom experience 88

The criminal procedure rules 2010, s.33 90

The law commission consultation paper no. 190 92

5 Use and guidelines for plant DNA analyses in forensics 93
Matthew A. Gitzendanner, Ph.D.

Introduction 93

Types of samples and collection for DNA analyses 94

Uses of genetic data 95

Genotyping methods 98

Finding a laboratory for analysis 102

Case studies 102

Conclusions 104

References 104

6 A primer on forensic microscopy 107
Christopher R. Hardy, Ph.D.

Microscopes and microscopic botanical structures relevant to forensic botany 107

The importance of reference collections in microscopic analysis 115

Preparation and documentation of specimen evidence for microscopic examination 116

References 118

7 Plant anatomy 119
David W. Hall, Ph.D. and William Stern, Ph.D.

The lindbergh case 121

Further reading 126

8 Palynology, pollen, and spores, partners in crime: what, why, and how 127
Anna Sandiford, Ph.D.

Terminology 127

What are pollen and spores? 127

Where are they found and how do they travel? 129

What does pollen look like? 130

The use of pollen for non-forensic work 132

The use of pollen in the forensic setting 132

When should pollen samples be collected? 134

How to collect and store pollen samples 134

How many samples to collect? 138

Who can collect pollen samples and where can an analyst be found? 139

Costs and turnaround times 140

Case examples 140

Summary 142

References 143

9 Algae in forensic investigations 145
Christopher R. Hardy, Ph.D. and John R. Wallace, Ph.D.

Finding an algal botanist and identifying algae 145

Algal diversity 146

Application of algal evidence in forensic investigations 154

Collection and processing of algal evidence in forensic investigations 165

Acknowledgements 172

References 172

10 Case Studies in forensic botany 174
David W. Hall, Ph.D.

Placing people or objects at scenes 174

Determining time of death 181

Index 189

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“This book entitled Forensic Botany: A Practical Guide is an excellent guide and teaching tool for biological evidence training, a resource for scientists, law enforcement and attorneys alike, and review material before trial. Forensic guidelines for plant material are limited and training is specialized; therefore, this truly is an excellent, readable scientific guide for the forensic community.”  (Journal of Forensic Sciences, 1 July 2013)

 

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