Dog expert's testimony key felony murder trial

Dog expert's testimony key felony murder trial
18 September 2012
Detroit News
Christine Ferretti and George Hunter

Detroit man accused of killing missing girl, 2, while babysitting

The testimony of a cadaver dog expert may prove key in the felony murder trial of a Detroit man accused of killing his toddler daughter, who remains missing.

Jury selection is slated to begin today in the Wayne County Circuit Court trial of D'Andre Lane, who is charged with felony murder and child abuse in the December disappearance of 2-year-old Bianca Jones.

Meanwhile, the girl's mother stands behind the father of seven and is holding out hope that her daughter is alive.

Lane faces mandatory life in prison if convicted in the case that relies on circumstantial evidence, including a cadaver-detecting FBI dog.

"The dog may be the star of the show in this case," said legal analyst Charlie Langton. "That makes it challenging for both sides."

Last month, attorneys sparred over the admissibility of the testimony of forensic canine expert Martin Grime, whose dog allegedly detected a cadaver scent in Lane's home and car.

The defense argued the relatively new scientific method is "highly prejudicial" and should be excluded.

Circuit Judge Vonda R. Evans ruled it will be admitted.

Lane has claimed Bianca was in the back seat of his 2004 Mercury Grand Marquis the morning of Dec. 2 when he was approached by armed carjackers. But when his car was found shortly after, she was not inside.

Prosecutors contend Lane fatally beat the child during potty training, disposed of her body and fabricated the carjacking.

"Historically there have been cases that have been charged where the victim's body has not been found," Maria Miller, a spokeswoman for Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy, said Monday. "Although the body of infant Bianca Jones has not yet been discovered, we have evidence in this homicide case that we will prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury."

Lane's attorney, Terry L. Johnson, countered that his client did "spank" Bianca, but there was no evidence of child abuse or murder since the girl's whereabouts are unknown.

"Mr. Lane is looking forward to getting a trial behind him so that we all can continue to search for his daughter," Johnson said.

Bianca's mother, Banika Jones, said she has "no faith whatsoever in this entire proceeding."

"I'm adamantly championing (Lane's) innocence. I do not believe he was in any way involved with the kidnapping of my daughter. He was a stay-at-home father, he's not a child abuser," Jones said Monday.

"I believe my daughter is alive, and is being held somewhere," Jones said.

The trial is expected to span several weeks and include about 40 witnesses for the prosecution and six for the defense.

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