Reported by the ABC's Australian Story: THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL
The program was based on Dr Lynne Milne as the only forensic palynologist in the country who was the focus of the Australian Story.
The media drew viewers in because of her seemingly great attainment that had previously never recognised until she met superintendent Haydn Green who heads up the forensics division of the Western Australian police force.
He had a suspect that he wanted to find guilty based on the chances of a spouse killing a spouse which were greater in anycase, at least more likely than that of a stranger.
Michael Bodsworth - who was Samantha's de facto and father of her two children - was the prime suspect.
The only problem was that the suspect de facto lived in another State and they could not place him at the crime scene.
For about 3 seconds the show mentioned that after the forensic palynologist evidence was discovered and the accused was told about it he then gave a statement to police admitting to the crime. [?]
But no evidence was reported along those lines on Australian Story. [?] Whether that was true needs to be investigated because the forensic material is also a bit of a worry. [?]
Is this a new scientific way of solving crime or a scientific way of framing people for a crime? Did any other scientists investigate the methods used by Dr Milne for their validity?
The real shonkiness in forensic palynology is that there has not been anywhere near enough work done on the distribution and variability of different pollens to be able to know what - if any - significance can be placed on a match.
If the crime was committed in the victim's exotic plant nursery and the suspect who denies he was ever there has pollen on his clothes from an incredibly rare plant found only on Sumatran mountaintops or in the victim's greenhouse then you've got some evidence. But cases like that only come up on TV.
The real scenario is likely to be someone like Dr Milne takes the stand and swears that microscopic traces of pollen on the suspect's shirt matches that produced by one or two flowers near the murder scene - the judge and jury nod their head and the defence lawyer, who failed high school science, looks worried and mounts an ineffective cross examination.
Questions never asked is how common pollens matching those might be, whether those flowers might also be grown in the front yard of the suspect's neighbour's house, how far the pollen can spread from source due to wind and insects, etc, whether police from the murder scene also came into contact with the suspect - possibly inadvertently or otherwise transferring traces of pollen or even how many other people's clothes were tested to see if they too had traces of matching pollen (which might imply that it is fairly widely distributed).
It reminds me a bit of some dodgy evidence the notorious South Australian forensic scientist, Colin Manock, gave about seeds allegedly found in mud on the suspect's car that matched seeds from the murder scene. [?]
What the jury didn't hear is that those kinds of seeds are extremely common on SA roadsides at that time of year and could be expected to be found on the cars of almost everyone who drove in the countryside.
Firstly, she only checked for the presence of the wattle at the suspect's home and the murder scene - nowhere else. Those wattles may be as common as muck all over the rest of QLD and could have ended up in the suspect's car as the result of driving almost anywhere - not necessarily to Noosa where the body was found.
Secondly, her own problems with static electricity etc showed how easy it is for that sort of pollen to spread and stick to things - demonstrating how incredibly easy it would have been for the evidence to be contaminated. [?]
Thirdly, she *dropped* the evidence (a tiny speck of pollen) on her own carpet and hunted around on the floor until she found a speck of pollen she *assumed* was the same one she dropped. [?]
The incriminating evidence could have come from her own garden or been tracked in on her kids shoes.
Fourthly she says "I look at them not as I'm trying to prove somebody guilty or innocent but it's I'm doing the science and the result will then tell me whether the person is guilty or innocent".
This is a classic example of what Professor William Thompson causes 'forensic examiner bias' and is a leading cause of wrongful conviction with expert evidence. [?]
The 'science' does *not* tell anyone whether someone is guilty or innocent - it simply provides evidence that a *court* is supposed to use to determine guilt or innocence.
There could be dozens of reasons she got the result she did which are still consistent with the innocence of the suspect (e.g. she made an error, the evidence was contaminated or planted, the pollens matched by chance).
If she wrote her reports and took the stand while believing that 'science' had already 'proved' the suspect guilty it would have affected the way she reported her procedures and results and how she gave evidence. After all, in her mind, unless she could convince the jury that science had fingered the guilty man then a murderer would walk free - maybe to kill again.
Most people trained in science are consequentialists - they believe that outcomes determine whether or not a particular behaviour is ethical (lawyers are trained to be proceduralists - if they follow the appropriate procedures they are being ethical, regardless of what the results of doing so might be). To a consequentialist it is OK to lie, if by doing so you are getting the 'right' result in the end (e.g. the conviction of a guilty person).
So if Milne is a consequentialist who sincerely (and mistakenly) thinks that science had 'proved' that Bodsworth was guilty, she would have had few qualms about exaggerating the evidence and hiding any possible errors she had made if it would increase the chance of a guilty verdict.
When Dr Lynne Milne was asked to help solve the murder of Samantha Bodsworth, her only previous dealings with police had been blowing into breathalysers and receiving speeding tickets.
However the single mother and PhD student, who was just recovering from her own personal tragedies, got drawn into the world of forensic science and crime.
Through her knowledge of microscopic pollen, Dr Milne was able to apply her skills to smashing the alibi of a murderer, and in the process change the course of her own career and of criminal investigation in Australia.
Her evidence in the case of Samantha Bodsworth resulted in the conviction for murder of Samantha's former de facto husband Michael. As the only forensic palynologist in the country, Dr Milne is now in demand by police forces in several states.
Her new work takes her far from the stuffy confines of the laboratory. Though she never planned to get involved in the human side of crime, she has become close friends with the grieving family of Samantha Bodsworth.
Australian Story tells the tale of one woman's mission to bring forensic palynology to the forefront of Australian crime fighting.
SNR SGT JULIE ELLIOTT, PRESENTER: Hello, I'm Senior Sergeant Julie Elliott from the media office of the Queensland Police. Tonight's Australian Story is about a scientist and a single mum. She's helped develop a whole new field of forensics based on her expert knowledge of pollen. Recently, she's helped solve some serious crimes in Western Australia, but it all began with a murder investigation in Noosa a few years ago. This is Lynne Milne's story.
Dr Lynne Milne has brought forensic palynology to the forefront of Australian crime fighting after helping to solve the murder of Samantha Bodsworth. She tells Australian Story about her journey through personal tragedy to professional triumph.
Superintendent Haydn Green heads up the forensics division of the Western Australian police force, as a former student of Dr Lynne Milne, he is excited by the way palynology is used to help solve crimes.
Frozen case? I don't really know what to say about them until they come up with their case. They say it involves DNA evidence but that's the only stuff we know.
By Just Us 24 August 05
First Grabs To Control Our DNA A small company in Australia has been subjected to gross denials of rights after DNA database technology was stolen from it's company. This one year saga has spawned them to form a new approach to projects of importance to all people.
Worries over DNA and racial profiling UK: Black men are four times more likely than White men to be on the national DNA database and there is growing concern about racial profiling in criminal investigations.
Lab's Errors Force Review of 150 Virginia DNA Cases US: WASHINGTON, - A sharply critical independent audit found that Virginia's nationally recognized central crime laboratory had botched DNA tests in a leading capital murder case. The findings prompted Gov. Mark Warner to order a review of the lab's handling of testing in 150 other cases as well.
Witch-hunt targets scientists QLD: SCIENTISTS at the John Tonge Centre are being threatened with jail in the wake of a government hunt for the source of leaks highlighting serious problems in the forensic laboratories.
Fresh swipe at DNA labs Scientist Kris Bentley, whose departure yesterday follows that of forensic biologist Deanna Belzer after concerns about "inaccurate" DNA results and unvalidated equipment, issued a scathing resignation letter leaked to The Courier-Mail.
DNA fingerprinting 'no longer foolproof'... The genetic profiles held by police for criminal investigations are not sophisticated enough to prevent false identifications, according to the father of DNA fingerprinting.
THE BUTLER DIDN'T DO IT! PROFESSOR BARRY BOETTCHER: Now, there should be a law enacted within Queensland so that when cases come up like this they can be brought to attention and if an appropriate authority such as a judge of your Supreme Court considers that it merits further inquiry, an inquiry be ordered.
'Rape' officer clears his name UK: A former policeman has been cleared of rape after protesting his innocence for 15 years. Judges at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh ruled that Brian Kelly, 47, had suffered a miscarriage of justice over crucial DNA evidence.
New unit investigates unsolved deaths? A new police unit has been established to investigate more than 360 unsolved deaths in New South Wales, with many of the deaths dating back more than 30 years.
Prisoner's bid for review denied Prisoner Roger Cheney has lost a Supreme Court action to have a judicial review of his 1993 convictions an 30-year jail sentence. Justice Shaw said he was concerned about the prisoner's claim that DNA evidence held by the police could prove his innocence. Although Cheney had requested the results of the DNA tests, he had been denied access to the forensic analysis.
QLD Prisoners DNA Bid THE curious case of Queensland's "cat lady" murder is set to test the state's legal authorities again, with the man convicted of the killing asking the Attorney-General to take the unprecedented step of releasing blood samples for DNA retesting.
Database clears up crimes? NSW Police Minister John Watkins said at the launch of a Sydney conference of international forensic experts meeting to mark 100 years of fingerprinting in NSW. He said the collection of DNA from prisoners and suspects in NSW during the past two years had led to more than 5,400 matches on the forensic database.
A Question of Innocence Katrina Bolton: The promise of DNA freeing the innocent as well as convicting the guilty has been repeated by politicians across Australia, usually while DNA laws are being expanded. The promise was made as a national DNA database, ‘Crimtrac’ was created, and it was made as NSW introduced legislation giving unprecedented powers to take DNA samples from prisoners, by force if necessary.
DNA testing causes debate in murder case The use of voluntary DNA testing in the investigation of a murder case in New South Wales has been applauded by victim support groups who are ill informed about the process said Justice Action's spokesperson Gregory Kable.
ARE YOU INNOCENT? The NSW government has finally appointed somebody (Justice John Nader) to head up its Innocence Panel and has produced leaflets and forms for people convicted of serious crimes (eg murder) to apply for DNA testing if they believe it may help prove their innocence. You can get the info by phoning 1300 881 717 or writing to the panel at GPO Box 45 Sydney NSW 2001.
Is the Westminster System flawed? Most people would say Lady Di got the boot and NSW has so much trouble getting the Innocence Panel moving. I said hey, what's going on!
Prisoners can prove innocence for $20? Les Kennedy Daily Telegraph reported today that" Prisoners who believe that DNA will prove they were wrongly convicted will have the chance to prove their innocence for a mere $20 administration fee. The move comes 20 months after NSW inmates were asked to provide DNA for comparison with a databank of DNA from unsolved crime scenes for possible convictions.
DNA yours or mine? Now they have isolated two genes that they say tells you if you're more likely to be depressed. What does that mean? It could mean that you should stay in jail because you are more likely than not to continue your offending behaviour according to a Department of Corrective Services Forensic Psychiatrist.
DNA = Do Not Assume - DNA Controversies! The national DNA database of all known offenders proposed by Prime Minister Tony Blair could mean that innocent people will be accused of crimes they did not commit.
DNA Evidence of Bipartisanship Last week the U.S. Congress passed the Justice for All Act, which includes provisions of the Innocence Protection Act. As of this posting, the legislation has not yet been signed by President Bush. Attached is an analysis of the legislation prepared by the Justice Project.
DNA - A Shadow of Doubt One case points to misinterpretation of evidence that helped put a man behind bars. The other shows just how easy it is to plant falsely incriminating DNA evidence. As our forensic techniques become ever more sensitive, so the possibility of abuse continues to grow.
Here come de Judge - Time to Leave  There have always been examples of rulings and interpretations that have supported the saying "The law is an ass". This is increasingly the case, because even the best intentioned judges are now facing an avalanche of new technologies and social change. But, it is no good making excuses for the judiciary and continuing to accept their strange interpretations. We must recognise that not only judges but the whole legal system will struggle more and more. In the end the whole system will become a farce. This is the way empires end.
2nd Renaissance -15 The Rabbits And The Wolves  Historically, there have been periods when legal distinctions between animals and humans have been blurred. For instance, in medieval Europe, in the 14th and 15th centuries, numerous trials and executions of animals occurred. One source identifies 34 recorded instances of pigs having been tried and cruelly put to death. Besides pigs; rats, chickens, goats, and bees were similarly tried. Some of the pigs were fully dressed in human clothes at the time they were, inevitably, found guilty. In one case a vicar excommunicated a flock of sparrows that infested his church. All this happened despite the theological stance that animals had no soul, and no morals or conscience. They could not really be guilty of transgressing the Rule of Law.
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