Inspect analyst talks flies at Anthony trial – WPEC 12 West Palm Beach
I am posting an article on this part of the testimony offered in the current Anthony murder trial, arguably a media frenzy event, because coincidentally, although interpreting services are not being offered, the testimony relates directly to one of the workshops offered at the NAJIT annual meeting a month ago, entitled “Let’s talk about death. Understanding the language of medico-legal investigations” by Laura Cahue, Ph.D. Below is an email Laura sent out yesterday to those of us who attended her session in Long Beach in May, commenting on the testimony in the article referenced:
Been watching the Anthony trial-the expert witnesses providing forensic testimonies. This caught my attention, see what you think. Next year, we can go over this case and the entomological and anthropological forensic evidence—with good interpreting solutions that preserve the scientific jargon register.
Neal Haskell, an expert in forensic entomology from St. Joseph’s College in Indiana, confirmed that the presence of flies – both adult and larvae – in materials that had been in the car were indicative of human decomposition.
The source of the decompositional fluids that attracted the bugs probably would have been in the car for several days, he said. The flies were found among trash and paper towels that had been inside the trunk of the car. Haskell said the evidence is “absolutely” consistent with a body being left inside the trunk – but that the body had not been in the trunk for very long. He said he thought the little girl’s body had been in the trunk for three to five days. He added that the insect evidence at the scene where Caylee Marie’s body was found indicated that the body “had been out there many, many months.”
Please read the handout in the NAJIT Conference book, to better understand. AND I ask this question: If we can use pig models (that is, use pigs to study entomological processes during decomposition, can we assert that the presence of flies (or any other insect species, for that matter) is ABSOLUTELY due to the presence of a HUMAN decomposing body? While Haskell does not say this, he does suggest it and misleads the jury by not clarifying that these insects are attracted by mammalian flesh decomposition (in fact, many also colonize reptilians and icthyofauna-fish). If you can’t really conceptualize this, think of road kill.
In Entomology & Death – A Procedural Guide, edited by E. Paul Catts and Neal H. Haskell, Wayne Lord (Chapter 2-page 9) writes:
“INECTS AND HUMAN DECOMPOSITION
Human corpses, whether they have been produced naturally or as the result of foul play, are processed by insect decomposers in the same manner as any other piece of carrion. Forensic entotomology, therefore, is based on the analysis of the insects and other invertebrates which sequentially colonize a corpse as decomposition progresses….”
I am surprised the defense did not make him clarify this on cross, and only asked about “could this have been due to the trash in the car”? Haskell could have then clarified that the species of flies are only attracted to decomposing flesh-not rotting food, as you would be likely to find in trash. A cooked, rotting burger will attract flies, but are they the same species as those that feed on decomposing flesh?
Who would have thought we would be seeing a practical application of the concepts we learned, in such a short time? I will definitely attend her sequel workshop, already announced, at next year’s meeting.