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C r i m e S c e n e B o t a n i c a l s. How Plants are used in Forensics. Basic Information. Forensic Botany is the science of using plant or plant-like materials in solving crimes

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c r i m e s c e n e b o t a n i c a l s

CrimeSceneBotanicals

How Plants are used in Forensics

basic information
Basic Information
  • Forensic Botany is the science of using plant or plant-like materials in solving crimes
  • The discovery that plants can be used in forensics is a somewhat new one, beginning to be used in depth in 1992, and much experimentation is yet to be completed: first known case, however, was in 1935
  • Palynology is an inner division of botany that is used within forensic botany to help with the main points of helping to solve a crime
  • Spores, as well as small plant parts such as pollen, seeds, wood chips, leaves, and small twigs, can easily attach to a human’s clothing or can be breathed in and transported to the lungs
  • Dendrochronology is a process within forensic botany where the rings of a root are counted to see how many years ago the soil was disturbed and, therefore, how long ago the body was buried: only gives us a vague idea however, often within five years
how can it help
How can it help?
  • The science of Forensic Botany can be used to help in a crime in a variety of ways:
    • Geographical Location
    • Season or time
    • Whether or not a body has been moved
    • How long a body has been buried
    • Whether a specific suspect was present at the crime
    • How the person died
    • Can be used to confirm or disprove a witness’s statements
    • Can be used as evidence in court
    • Plant materials can easily be traced on a suspect’s clothing, possessions, or even, with a simple stomach x-ray, within a suspect’s lungs and abdominal area
what type of cases use it
What type of cases use it?
  • Pollen and many other plant-like materials can be used in many types of court cases:
    • Forgery
    • Producing of illegal drugs (and distribution)
    • Robbery
    • Homicide and genocide
    • Terrorism
    • Hit and run crimes
    • Creation of counterfeit money
    • Forged documents
    • Forged paintings
    • Removal of artifacts from historic sites
    • Illegal pouching of animals and fish
    • Fake antiques
upsides
UPSIDES
  • Can help to find all the points listed on the previous page
  • Can easily be found and obtained by examining a suspects clothing, car, house, hair, and skin
  • Removes some of the work from the plate of a forensic investigator as they may have more help and more evidence provided by forensic botanists
downsides
DOWNSIDES
  • Forensic Botanist must be “dead-on” as evidence can easily be mixed up.
  • Pollen rain can cover important evidence at the burial site
  • In the use of Dendrochronology, false and incomplete rings can occur: these extra rings can greatly affect the investigation
  • An older, more developed plant can take over another newer one at the burial site. This can give investigators a false idea that this first plant they see, though actually older than the body, has only been there since the body was buried and can be used as evidence if a sample of the plant is found on the suspect

Dendrochronology

does it really work
Does it really work?
  • Examples of cases using this:
    • The kidnapping and death of Charles Lindenburgh’s son: the ladder at the crime scene was matched to a block of wood in the criminal’s attic
    • Recently in New Zealand, a woman was pulled into an alleyway and killed: the criminal had dirt in his car, claiming it was from working in the fields- dirt was matched to the dirt from a shrubbery found near the body of the woman
advantages to forensic botany in a court case
Advantages to Forensic Botany in a Court Case
  • Palynology and forensic botany are becoming more accepted in the court room
  • Botanical evidence can be found at almost every crime scene
  • Like DNA, botanical evidence is all different, each plant with its own characteristics
  • As it is new and amazing, botanical evidence is very influential in a court room
pollen in a courtroom
POLLEN IN A COURTROOM
  • Having pollen as evidence in a courtroom can have major disadvantages:
    • Pollen is still not fully accepted as competent in a courtroom as it is incredibly common and there are not very individual characteristics but more group characteristics
    • Pollen is more used in forensic botany as a tool to point investigators in the right direction toward the solving of a crime, not to solve and accuse a murderer
    • Pollen is in the air and therefore, many people attending the court may have this same type of pollen on their clothing or in their hair making it unsteady evidence that can be easily proved as incompetent
forensic botany in the future
Forensic Botany in the Future
  • Scientists are currently searching for techniques to find whether plants of the same species have different fingerprints
  • This discovery could act as an unparalleled tool in solving crimes and swaying court cases