01:04:20 - 01:15:35 Koehler, Arthur
Koehler, Arthur; Keraga Report, Wood-Identification, Green Bay, trial, Ramin
I guess, are there any colleagues or, that you have memories of, that you'd like to record? Or specific memories of the Lab that you think are interesting or funny or somehow should be recorded for posterity?
I suppose I could go on for hours about some of this stuff. Well there's a couple of things: one is, The Center for Wood Anatomy, well, I don't know if anybody's even mentioned this in their histories yet, but you know, Arthur Koehler, who was again, headed up the wood anatomy section, he was the one who ended up doing all of the, he was the one who ended up in court in the Lindbergh kidnapping case. Well, what's really interesting to me, over all these years, is that it is still being discussed. And it is still being written about, books, and books, and books, most of which are, frankly, just going through and writing about it, and never really looking at it. Finally, about two years ago, a guy who apparently is just one of these people who needs something to do, and he wasn't necessarily a scientist or anything, but he started in on the history of this whole thing. And he decided that he would go to the lab, or the museum, the state police museum down in New Jersey and actually look at the ladder and try to figure out if in fact there is anything about this ladder that he could see or match up that would prove or disprove all of work that Koehler did. Long story short, it's called the Keraga Report. The long story short is that this report, the guy wrote to me and asked me to review it. And he sent me this thing, and I couldn't believe it, it was like 100 pages of stuff and he wanted to publish it. And the first thing I wrote, I said, way too much detail if you want to publish it. I think it's pretty good stuff, I said, but you've got to cut this down to maybe thirty pages or something. I said, this is just way too much stuff---lots and lots of photos, pictures, good stuff. Anyway, he finally got it sort of published somehow. I don't know if it's in a magazine or anything, but he made it available to the public, lets put it that way. And, I thought that his work was quite well done, and his approach to it was very simple. In other words, you look at what Koehler said, and then you go out and look at the ladder, and said well, can I prove or disprove what he's saying. And also, you know, most people are saying, well, the ladder was just completely made up and yeah, the ladder was there, but this one rail, nobody in their right mind would ever go up in their attic and saw off a piece of the attic board and bring it down and put it on a rail. Why would they ever do that? You know, that's stupid; that can't happen. Well, bottom line, he didn't say it can't happen. He said, well, let's look. And most everybody said, well, it's not that rail anyway. They just faked it. They made this up; they faked it; they put in something; the police, for sure, faked everything. So he got original photos that were taken right after the, you know, in the newspapers, wherever he could find them, where they showed the ladder. And then he looked at the pattern of knots and patterns of the ladder, and sure enough it matches what's there in the museum today, in terms of those knots and everything else. So, he said, well, they couldn't have faked it. Because to fake that, and to make sure that that knot and that newspaper matches up to this swirl and that doodad, that's like nearly impossible. And he goes through the rest of it doing the same sort of thing, which I thought was a great approach. But I'm amazed how people read it and said, oh it's just, you know, he doesn't know what he's talking about. And I'm thinking, you haven't looked, people. I mean, you really need to have an open mind before you go into this. And I think that's the problem with why people keep ragging about it because---. Anyway, that was one thing I thought that, that's interesting. And we do a lot of tours in the Center because we have all of this interesting history up there, if you will. A lot of wood specimens, the touchy-feely things. I mean, we've got pieces from all sorts of old wooden boats and things you can pick up, old bowling balls made out of wood, and, you know, stuff that we've identified, a piece of Noah's Ark, if you will. So, all of that makes it fantastic or fascinating, if nothing else. And I think that's what made it fascinating for me when I first got into it, is I was next door talking to Kuky, and he'd pull something off his desk just willy-nilly, well, look at this! What do you think? He said, this is a piece of Noah's Ark, or this is a piece from some crime, you know. And I have to look at the evidence here to see if this wood evidence is really what species, if it matches the splinter found in the guy's head. And, so I did a number of those over the years.
And, one in Green Bay, in particular I remember. It was some motorcycle gang that apparently killed, raped some young girl and somebody; witness saw them throw a pool cue in a dumpster. And then they finally got these people and they found blood in the car, but they also found splinters in the car. They found the pool cue, found splinters in her head. They wanted all of this matched up. So they asked me to do this, and it turns out that the pool cue was a wood, a tropical wood it was called Ramin. And, so I identified that, and then I identified the splinter in the head, and I identified---they all matched up to be Ramin. And it was the first---and I had done evidence before, but usually you write a report, that's the last. But this was up in Green Bay, and they said, well, we're going to call you as a witness. And I said, oh boy. It was the first time I'd ever been in court as a witness, expert witness, and I can remember distinctly getting there and having this briefcase, and, you know, prepared, and suit and tie and everything. And I got there---they said be there at nine o'clock in the morning. That meant that I had to get in the car and drive like crazy to get there by, you know, nine o'clock in the morning. Well, I'm there and I found the place, and everybody said hello, ok, they're starting up now, but you just have to sit here and wait. Finally, about an hour goes by and they said, well, if you want to go out for breakfast or something, they're not going to get to you until, you know, after lunch or something. So, ok, at least I'm allowed to go out. So, I went to the restaurant, ordered some coffee and then wrote a little bit of this or that, and ate a lunch, and came back at 12:30, 1:00. Okay, well I'll just sit here. I sat and sat and sat. Finally, they said well, do you have, did you bring a suitcase? I said, suitcase? I said, I thought I'd be in and out of here in an hour. I said, what's this with suitcase? Well, stay over, we don't know if you can get on now until tomorrow. I'm thinking, all I can think of is, I've got to drive the whole way home, you know, then tomorrow morning get in the car and drive the whole way back up here. They said, well, we'll see if we can get you on. They were going to quit at, I think, five o'clock; they got me on at a quarter to five. And I'll never forget this, they said, ok, you can go on now. And I'm back in the back someplace. You couldn't be in the courtroom. And all day long I'm in the back, you know, just a bunch of guys, a bunch of detectives packing heat, you know. Anyway, they sort of took me down this long hallway, and then a narrow thing, and then they said, go through that curtain. So you open the curtain and walked out, and I'm looking, and here is this audience that is just packed to the hilt. And the lights are bright, the cameras are rolling and I'm walking across the stage. And I'm telling you, I was petrified. But I got on the stand, the prosecution, of course, asked me who I was, what's your expertise? Then the defense got after me, and, I don't know, I'm thinking they're going to ask, I don't know what. You know, because it was pretty, for me at least, it was like, well, that's what the wood is. I don't know. You know, you can make anything out of it you want to, but that's the wood. And she said, she asked me a question, and she said, well, she said, pool cues are just, you know, a dime a dozen, couldn't that have been any kind of pool cue? And isn't that a common pool cue? And I had to stop and think. And I finally said, no. I said, I've never seen a pool cue made out of Ramin before, which was true. And she wasn't expecting that answer. And she just stopped, all of a sudden, she said, no more questions, sat down, and judge says, you're excused. In fifteen minutes I was done. I couldn't believe it. I mean I was just like, this is crazy, but that was an experience. Since then, since that time, I had a few more cases, but I've only been in court about once or twice, three, only about three times. Usually, they get settled before I show up. In fact, one time I flew the whole way to New York. I got there, got in court, the lawyer was there---and this was a, this was a federal case, and so I was representing the federal government, really. It had to do with importing wood. The lawyer came and said, she said, I'm so sorry, she said, last night, at 10:30, the defense lawyer called and they wanted to settle. So we've arranged a settlement, but the judge doesn't know it yet. And she said, I don't know what's going to happen. So, anyway, the judge comes out and they say, okay, let's start with the first witness. And this, the lawyers say can we approach the bench? And he was mad; the judge was really mad. But, bottom line, he hem-hawed around, finally said, ok, yeah, if you agreed to this settlement, ok. They came back and said, well, you can go home. Geez, I wish I had know this; I wouldn't have come in the first place, or stayed three more days, you know, that would have been great too.
Vacation in New York?
Yeah, I could have, but I already had, you know, tickets and everything. So, I thought, well, at least I don't have to sit there and listen to some of these people. So, that was good.