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Re: The Falcarius story by a non-science reporter

On Fri, 13 May 2005 09:48:12 -0600 Cliff Green <dinonaut@emerytelcom.net>
> Dear List,
>     The short blurb plays fast and loose with the facts. Jim 
> Kirkland had
> nothing to do with the prosecution of the fossil thief. Jim Told the 
> guy
> that if he showed were the site was, gave all bones back, and made
> restitution for all the fossils he sold, Kirkland would do his best 
> to see
> that he didn't do any jail time. After the person agreed, The BLM 
> decided to
> prosecute anyway. 

While I agree with most of your other comments, that particular point
really bothered me.

I think it was inappropriate for a State Paleontologist to try to
convince a criminal suspect to give up information in return for the
possibility of prosecutorial leniency, particularly when the case was not
under his jurisdiction (the theft occurred on BLM land, not on state
land).  As soon as he suspected that a crime had occured on federal land,
the state paleontologist should have stepped aside and let the BLM
enforcement boys do their job.

Although I'm not a lawyer, I suspect that it was perfectly legal to have
that *particular* conversation with the suspect.  But IMO, it wasn't
proper to do so.  Kirkland probably knew that he had little clout with
the enforcement branch of the BLM.  This story also illustrates how
chaotic and arbitrary the regulatory agencies act when it comes to
dealing with fossil theft.  Paleontologists should not take on the roll
of interrogating criminal suspects.

The suspect turned out to be as guilty as a hungry flea on a lazy dog. 
But the end doesn't always justify the means.  In the public's eyes, this
type of manipulation gives professional paleontologists the appearance of
being untrustworthy and unethical when they deal with the public.  And
with the new vertebrate fossil protection bill pending in Congress, that
is an impression of paleontologists that the voter/taxpayer shouldn't