Forensic botany

Dana Ann Dudle ddudle at steel.ucs.indiana.edu
Tue Sep 14 07:37:29 EST 1999


I know of a research lab that did some bontanical forensics in a murder
case:  some bay leaves were found in a suspect's car (or on his clothing? 
the details elude my memory...), and the investigators were asked to run
RFLP and/or sequence analysis to determine the probability that the leaves
were from the same tree under which the murder victim was found.  They
also had to test other bay trees in the area, to judge the genetic
similarity of the whole 'population' to ensure that identical genetic
'fingerprints' actually identified individual trees. 

THis would be an expensive lab, but if you have the resources for
molecular techniques, it is a great way to learn to 'fingerprint' plants. 
It would also be a good way to teach the probabilistic nature of most
forensics evidence... since the investigators could never *prove* the
leaves were from the same tree, the prosecutors had to be satisfied with
an argument based on probability.  These arguments seem to be
less-than-convincing to jurors!

Just an idea...

Dana

Christine Maxwell <cmaxwell at TRENTU.CA> wrote:
> Dear Plant edders,

> Students always seem interested in forensic aspects of botany, and I was
> thinking of developing a lab or part of a lab with a forensic aspect.
> Before re-inventing the wheel, I was wondering whether anyone has come
> across such a lab? I haven't, even though I have looked.  Alternatively
> does anyone have suggestions?
> Thanks
> Christine




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