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Expanding Field of Forensic Botany Helps Point Detectives to Suspects

Posted Jan 31, 2011 7:07 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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When it comes to pointing the finger at a murder suspect, plants are gaining an increasing role in the criminal justice community.

Although the use of expert testimony by botanists dates back at least to the 1935 "trial of the century" in New Jersey over the kidnapping and slaying of the young son of aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh, the use of such scientific evidence is increasing exponentially today, according to the Orlando Sentinel

"Forensic botany is great in destroying alibis and frequently helps determine time since death," says David Hall, an expert in Gainesville, Fla., who is working on the Casey Anthony murder case there and writing a book on the subject of forensic botany.

"I used to get one or two questions of this sort a year," he tells the newspaper. "It's gotten to the point now that I get forensic botany questions two or three times a week."

In the Lindbergh case, a botanist testified that the wood in a ladder used to reach the child's bedroom matched wood from the suspect's attic floor at home, the newspaper recounts.

Bruno Hauptmann was convicted and put to death based in part on this evidence.

Hall, who was brought in to examine the outdoor site where the body of Anthony's 3-year-old daughter was found, is listed as a state's witness for the upcoming murder trial.

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