The Darwin Exception

because it's not always survival of the fittest – sometimes the idiots get through

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A Short Day is Budgeted

Posted by thedarwinexception on June 24, 2011

The judge starts this morning with a sidebar of his won – he asks the lawyers to remember that there’s something they have to do before the week is out. No one seems to know what he’s talking about – so he takes them to the sidebar without the court reporter. He’s probably planning another special dinner for the jurors – or maybe it’s the court reporters birthday and they are planning a party.

The first defense witness today is Maureen Bottrell. She is a geologist/forensic examiner with the FBI. She has been with the FBI for 16 years. She has a Masters in Geology from Georgia. As a geologist/forensic examiner her main duties include the analysis of geological material like soil samples, rocks, minerals, gemstones, and those things we make out of them that are very like artificial rocks, like glass and building materials such as cement. She has testified about 40 times. She is accepted as an expert witness in the area of geology.

She received evidence in this case when evidence was sent to the FBI lab for testing. Mostly what she tests for forensically in her laboratory is comparison analysis – could two items have come from the same source. For instance – could the soil on this thing have come from the known source we are looking at. She also does provenance studies – she will get a sample and be asked to determine where in the city, state or country this sample could have come from, so she will analyze it geologically to try to determine that.

How she does these things is the same way geologists all over do it. First – they collect a sample – from a pair of shoes, for example. Then they do an inspection for obvious things, like the color and texture of the sample. Then she might look microscopically at the sample, to determine the shape and size of individual grains of sand. Then she will determine the actual mineralogical composition of the soil. What the soil is made of.

The witness testifies that in her work she generally uses stereo binocular microscopes and transmitted light microscopes. There are three geologists employed by the FBI.

Baez directs the witness to her report in this case dated March 4th, 2010. She examined items from the Sunfire identified as debris collected from the trunk, a shovel, and 22 pairs of shoes and a transport bag from the Anthony home. She also received soil standards from the site on Suburban drive. These samples were form the site – after the top layer had been scraped by the Crime Scene investigators.

For the material from the car she was asked to do a provenance study – where did this material come from. One of the samples was too small and insufficient to do an analysis on – so that sample was set aside. The other sample from the trunk was a mix of materials, which is not uncommon for a sample taken from a car. Because the materials were mixed, she couldn’t really perform a provenance study – because the examiners are unable to “unmix” the sample. So neither of the samples from the car were suitable for a provenance study.

For the shovel she was also asked to do a provenance study – where did the material on the shovel come from. That study was underway when the body was found – so that study was stopped. Investigators had asked the FBI to perform the study to determine if the child had been buried somewhere. Once they found the body, that study was no longer needed.

For the shoes there were many that had no geological material on them – some of them appeared to be unworn (of course, when you have an imaginary job – where would you wear shoes?) There were only 3 pairs of shoes that had enough geological material to make a comparison. And the material found was different than the soil samples of the recovery site and could not have originated from that location.

There was insufficient material on the transport bag for comparison.

Cross by Ashton – He asks if this means that Casey’s shoes had never been on Suburban Drive. She says no, she cannot determine that. There are many possibilities – someone could have been at a scene and no soil transferred; someone could have been there and the soil transferred but later fell off; someone could have been there and soil transferred but was later contaminated by subsequent soil transfer; or the person could have never been there to begin with. Scientifically, this witness cannot tell which scenario is the true one.

Ashton asks – “so is the lack of soil on a person’s shoes meaningless as to whether or not they’ve actually been in a place?” And the witness says yes.

Baez re-directs. He asks the witness if those four scenarios she gave to Ashton are speculation. She says no, they are scenarios if she applied one to this case – that would be speculation.

The witness is excused

The next witness is Madeline Montgomery – she is a forensic toxicologist with the FBI. She has been employed with the FBI for 15 years. She has a BS in Chemistry. She has coursework in Forensic Chemistry and Forensic Toxicology. Forensic toxicology is the study of drugs and poisons in people. The witness says that she analyzes things like blood, urine, hair and autopsy samples such as livers and brains for the presence of drugs and poisons.

More than half of the work that she does supports local and state investigations. She works with equipment that not all state and local agencies have access to. Her lab has the ability to do more sophisticated testing. She also supports FBI investigations all across the country. She has testified 11 times in state, federal and military court. She is accepted as an expert.

Baez refers her to her report of March 13th, 2009. She received the hair mass that came form the remains. For testing hair, the first thing the examiner is looking for is chemicals in the hair. To test for this, the examiner needs to look inside the hair. The examiner soaks a sample of the hair in liquid nitrogen. This makes the hair very cold and very brittle, so that it breaks on impact. The examiner than grinds the hair sample to dust. That dust is then soaked in a chemical solvent overnight. Any poisons or drugs the examiner is looking for will be leeched into the solvent. The next day the examiner will perform further purification techniques on the solvent and make what they call an extract. Then that extract will be taken, along with known blank samples of hair that the examiners have added drugs or poisons to as control samples. These would all be taken to the instrument which is called a liquid chromatograph mass spectrometer.

In this case, the witness was initially asked to test the hair mass for alprazolam (Xanax) and clonazepam (klonopin). These are drugs from the benzodiazepine classification. They can be drugs that help someone to sleep or to calm nerves, as before surgery. The testing the witness did for those drugs in the hair sample were negative.

While the initial testing was going on, and the evidence was in the laboratory, the FBI lab was already validating a new method of testing that included not only the two drugs they were testing the hair sample for, but also 9 other drugs. This method was superior to the method they were already using. (On the order of 10 times more sensitive). So the timing worked out perfectly for the witness to test the hair sample again, using the new method, which would detect those two drugs she was initially tasked to test for – but the new method would detect them at much lower levels. She also tested for the 9 other drugs, as well. These drugs included 8 other drugs in the benzodiazepine classification, such as diazepam (valium), flunitrazepam (roofies, or the date rape drug), and other benzodiazepines and their metabolites, or what the body breaks them down into. She also was able to test for ketamine (Special K) , which is a veterinary tranquilizer often found among the club scene and taken for its hallucinogenic properties.

Her results for the 10 benzodiazepines plus Ketamine were all negative.

Baez asks the witness how much exposure to a drug would be needed before she would be able to get results for that drug. The witness testifies that in hair samples, sometimes even with controlled studies -where the researcher will give a subject a known amount of a drug and then test the hair of a subject – they are not always able to detect the presence of the drug in the hair. There is no set or known quantity that someone has to be exposed to before testing is positive.

Baez is done. Ashton crosses the witness.

Basically, he says, forensically the drug is meaningless. A negative result doesn’t mean that the person wasn’t given the drug.

The witness says all it means is that she found no evidence of the drug being given. She testifies that hair is not the best sample for drug exposure.

Ashton says that a negative result doesn’t really mean that a person wasn’t given a drug.

The witness testifies that even if she had gotten a positive result, she wouldn’t have been able to tell when or how often a person was given a drug. In longer hair she can test the samples down the length of the hair and determine chronic use if there are positive results over the growth of the hair. This hair sample was such that she had to look at it in bulk, as one sample.

Ashton points out that if a person was given a drug and died shortly afterwards, that it wouldn’t show up in the hair, anyway. The witness agrees.

The witness testifies that there is no test for chloroform in hair samples – and she also can’t tell if the child drowned.

Re-Direct. Baez asks the witness what other kind of meaningless work she does at the FBI. (Funny). She says she doesn’t think her work is meaningless. She says that she doesn’t test for chloroform in hair samples – but she does test for chloroform in liquid biological samples.

The witness is excused – after a bunch of questions Baez were objected to and sustained – mostly to do with Goldberger and the tests he performed.

The defense calls their next witness – and it looks like Cheney Mason is doing the questioning. That must mean the witness is boring.

Yeah, he looks boring. He is Dr. Michael Sigman, he is a faculty member at the University of Central Florida. He has a PhD in chemistry. He used to be a staff scientist at the Body Farm. He knew Dr. Vass when he was at the Body Farm.

In this case, on July 21st, 2008, he received a call from Eric Walton, a member of the University of Central Florida police department, asking if he would be willing to speak with a Mr. Stryker, from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, who was asking if he would be willing to help in taking air samples from the trunk of the car that belonged to Miss Anthony.

Sigman spoke with Mr. Stryker, who informed him that they had been in contact with Dr. Vass, they wanted to take samples from the trunk of the car. Vass gave them Sigman’s name as someone who would be able to help in collecting the samples and lived in the Orlando area. Sigman called Vass and asked what kind of samples he wanted and what methodology he wanted to use. Sigman knew Dr. Vass and was aware of his work. Sigman knew that Vass typically uses absorbent traps, and Sigman had none, although he knew other ways to pull the air samples, including tedlar bags, and Vass said that would be acceptable.

Sigman proceeded to the OCSD, with Doug Clark, his associate, and they took 2 tedlar bags and a gas type syringe to pull the samples. The procedure generally involves a pump to get the air into the bag, but he didn’t have a pump, so he used the gas type syringe. When he arrived at he OCSD, the trunk was closed, and he opened it just enough to get the syringe into the trunk. Then he pulled the air into the syringe, and injected the air into the tedlar bag. He took two samples – one 1 liter and a second sample 300 milliters.

They left both samples in the custody of the OCSD. The larger sample they sent to Dr. Vass, the smaller sample they brought the next morning to the National Forensic Science Lab at the University of Central Florida for them to perform preliminary testing on the bag.

The first test he ran on the air was to use the gas type syringe to pull 250 microliters of air from the tedlar bag. They injected this air directly into the Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer to analyze the air. They found in their testing trace amounts of volatile organic compounds. The signal was not strong and the sample was not concentrated enough to make a strong enough signal for them to determine anything. The compounds they found were the sort that one would find in gasoline or other petroleum projects. They were hydro carbons.

Because this sample did not show strong signal strengths, they took a second sample from the bag. They took this sample using a different methodology that would concentrate the sample. They used a solid phase micro extraction fiber (SPME). They then put the SPME fiber through the Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer. This sample tested very similar to the first, but since it was concentrated, the signal showed up much better and was much stronger. This test again concluded that the air sample was consistent with the presence of gasoline.

He did not do any quantitative analysis. He was able to identify, from the second sample, some toluene and some ethyl benzene, both compounds found in gasoline.

After analyzing the samples from the tedlar bag, they returned to the Orange County Sheriffs Department with a SPME unit and activated carbon strip and extracted samples.

They placed the SPME unit and the carbon strip in the trunk for 40 minutes to extract a sample with each. They took them out of the trunk, placed them on ice and brought them back to their lab to examine them immediately.

The next day they returned to the OCSD and extracted 4 SPME samples and 2 carbon strip samples. Those units were left in the trunk for 7 and 1/.2 hours.

They returned to the lab and analyzed these samples, as well. The primary pattern in the GCMS results was that of gasoline. They also detected the presence of chloroform, tetrachloroethene and dimethyl disulfide. A quantitative analysis was not done. But the primary compound was gasoline.

Tetrachloroethene is primarily used in the dry cleaning industry. It can also be used as a degreaser or spot remover. Chloroform is also used as a degreaser or in spot remover applications. It is also a by-product of bleach. Dimethyl Disulfide is present in onions, cabbage and soil samples, and it’s been reported in decomposition events, as well.

Dr. Vass has reported in his research that all three of these compounds are produced in decompositional events. He listed 30 compounds in his paper, which included these three that he called “markers” for human decomposition. Dr. Stephanopoulos reported in his paper in the Journal of Forensic Scientists, that there were 86 such compounds or “markers” for human decomposition. Of these 86 compounds, 11 were in common with the ones listed by Dr. Vass. Dr. Stephanopoulos did not list chloroform, nor did he list tetrachloroethene. But Dr. Stephanopoulos’ studies were done on aerobic bodies, bodies that had exposure to air. Dr. Vass’s studies were done on anerobic bodies – bodies that did not have access to air, and Dr. Vass has suggested that these compounds may be produced when there is no air present during decomposition.

The witness says that based on the samples that he collected and the analysis he did on those samples, and based on the chemicals that he found, and because there are other sources of those compounds in other places, he could not conclude that there was a human decompositional event in the trunk of the car.

Now, you know, this witness sure did phrase that oddly, emphasizing in every other sentence that this is based on the tests that he did, based on the samples that he collected, based on the results that he got. How much do you want to bet that if you asked him, what about based on the samples that Dr. Vass analyzed and based on the results that Vass got, added together with the samples that this witness ran, that his answer would be that he did think there were human remains in the trunk. It’s just the way he couched every phrase and the way he looked at Mason.

Mason then asks the witness if he was aware that here was a bag of trashage (trash/garbage) in the trunk. The witness says that he has tried not to follow all the details of the case, but he does understand that there was trashage found in the trunk.

Ashton then crosses. He confirms with the Doctor that the date of his initial sample taking, with the tedlar bags was July 21st, 2008. The doctor did not open or inspect the trunk. So he did not know that the liner and spare tire cover had already been removed.

The doctor says that a micro liter is one millionth of a liter. The doctor drew 300 microliters and he describes this amount as the diameter of a lead pencil, filled up to maybe ¼ of an inch.

Dr. Vass had requested the samples be taken with a triple sorbent trap, but this witness did not have those available. The triple sorbent traps are much more effective in collecting air samples. You can test larger volumes of air and with more accuracy. The witness agrees that the traps are better – and that the traps are better than the SPME fibers, as well as the carbon strips. But the witness used the best methods he had available to him.

The testes this witness ran told him what was in the air, but not where those compounds came from. If one had samples, like a piece of carpet sample, one could test the air around that carpet sample to determine if the chemicals were being generated by it.

Even with the carpet and the spare tire cover gone from the trunk, the witness was still able to detect the presence of chloroform. Those chemicals are consistent with the research available regarding human decomposition.

Ashton asks about the witness’s statement that chloroform is a byproduct of bleach and some organic compounds. Ashton asks if this literature is regarding the effects of finding small amounts of chloroform in people that have swimming pools. The witness agrees. Ashton asks what amounts this chloroform was found in. The witness says very minor amounts. But this reaction would also yield bromides, not just chloroform. And this reaction would not occur just by throwing a bathing suit in the back of a trunk.

Ashton asks if anything this witness found leads him to believe that the source of the chloroform or the tetrachloroethene came from natural sources. He does not.

The witness says that there was an odor coming form the trunk, but he doesn’t have a background to identify the smell.

Re-Direct. Mason asks if he only found these three compounds in 2 of the samples he drew. The witness says he actually found them in 4. But no, he doesn’t know the source. The predominant prodile was identified as gasoline. And he reported this to OCSD three years ago.

Re-Cross – based on the circumstances that he drew the samples from a garage and it was from the trunk of a car he was not surprised to find gasoline.

The witness is excused.

The defense calls Susan Mears. She is a crime scene supervisor with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

Baez shows the witness some pictures she took at the scene. One of the pictures shows a red World of Disney plastic bag. Inside of that bag was a “Cool Blue” Gatorade bottle. These items were 7 inches away from the skull.

The witness is excused.

The defense’s next witness is Dr. Michael Rickenbach, He is a forensic chemist with the FBI. He is still an expert.

Baez directs the witness to his report dated December 11th, 2008. He received and tested items from his control unit from the OCSD. These items were the car seat and the steering wheel cover. The witness tested these items for volatile substances, particularly chloroform. It was not founded on either of there items. He doesn’t know why they were tested, he just tested them. He was not informed that this testing was done to see if chloroform was on someone’s hands and then on the steering wheel.

In July 2009, He was also given another item to test for chloroform. This was Caylee’s doll. It was negative for chloroform.

Ashton crosses the witness. He asks if there weren’t initial indications that there may have been chloroform on the doll – that the witness had to go and get another doll. The witness says that yes, when the doll was first tested there were indications of chloroform in small amounts. He requested that a similar doll be submitted. A co-worker submitted a similar doll that he had, and he analyzed the original doll again. The doll the co-worker gave him also showed low levels of chloroform, also in very small amounts. The co-workers doll and Caylee’s doll were similar, but not exact matches. Because the levels were so low that he couldn’t make a finding that there was chloroform present.

Baez re-directs. Baez says “So let me get this straight – your co-worker has a daughter and her doll has chloroform on it?” (funny). The witness says that isn’t what he said at all. He couldn’t find enough levels on either doll to say there was chloroform on either of them. Chloroform is found in other items – but the witness doesn’t believe that there was chloroform in these items naturally – it may have been an artifact that was produced by heating up the sample. That’s why he uses a negative control, so he doesn’t incorrectly identify compounds that are not present but produced during testing.

They all go to sidebar when Baez is finished – but when we come back from sidebar, Baez seems to be back on Direct. He asks the doctor what he originally wanted to ask him about – the Gatorade bottle and the testing the doctor did on it and the liquid and syringe that were found in the Gatorade bottle.

The doctor was submitted a Gatorade bottle with an unknown liquid in it. There was also a syringe in the bottle, also with an unknown liquid in it. The doctor was asked to identify those liquids.

The doctor tested the liquid in the Gatorade bottle was a white murky liquid. Testing did not identify the liquid exactly, but it was found to be some kind of cleaning fluid. There was also a syringe with a needle on it inside the Gatorade bottle; there was a yellow oily liquid in the hypodermic. The doctor tested this and found testosterone compounds.

In the Gatorade bottle liquid, the one that contained some form of cleaning solution, there were low levels of chloroform found. These were at very low levels and could have come from the cleaning products.

Cross – Ashton points out that the levels of chloroform in the Gatorade bottle were so small that the witness did not report them. Chloroform is known to be in some cleaning products, so it was not surprising to find it there.

Ashton is done.

The doctor is excused.

The defense calls their next witness – Karen Korsberg Lowe – she is re-certified as a hair and fiber expert.

Baez asks about some of her reports – starting with one dated August 13th, 2008. This report is concerning some items of clothing that came from Casey Anthony’s closet. These items were processed for hair and fibers and the hairs recovered were tested for apparent signs of decomposition. Those items were tested and all results were negative.

October 15th 2008 report is discussed next. This report was regarding debris recovered from the vehicle. Again, this item was tested for hairs and any apparent signs of decomposition on any hairs found. None were found.

October 21st, 2008 report – regarding a hair recovered from another examiner while testing another item. This hair had no apparent signs of decomposition.

November 6th 2008 report – regarding 4 items of debris, 2 from trash bag, 2 from paper towel. No hairs with apparent decomposition

June 25th 2009 report – this report covers 5 different items.

1. Items from the trash recovered from vehicle. There were 12 items and 8 trunk items – this was all debris and these items were all tested for hairs with characteristics of decomposition and none were found.
2. From the Medical Examiner’s office – she examined any fibers found from the scene and known to be from Caylee and compared them to known samples of the trunk liner and spare tire cover – there were no fibers found in common.
3. Items from the residence – she examined fabric from duct tape from the scene compared to duct tape taken from the home. These two exemplars did not match.
4. Medical Examiner’s Office – she examined debris, plastic, a blanket, and looked for hairs and compared them to the hair mass to find any hairs that might be dissimilar. There was one Caucasian head hair found on a collection paper, which did not match Caylee’s hair. She pulled hairs from CSI agents to determine if this hair was from any of them.

This prompts a sidebar, then the jury being sent out for a break. During the break Baez and Ashton hash out the testimony. They decide that the witness can testify that some, although not all, of the CSI investigators were tested as the source of the hair. That’s what she testifies to.

Her March 30th, 2010 report relates that the hairs tested came from Robin Maynard, Christine Mankiewicz, Melissa Cardiello, Sara Coerbel, Kelly Wood, Gerardo Bloise, Jenny Welch.

(This is not a complete list of everyone that was at the scene.)

She eliminated these people as potential donors. Currently that hair is unidentified.

Back to the June 25th 2009 report there was one more sample set that she tested. They were all tested for hairs being similar or dissimilar to known standards, nothing forensically significant was found.

In all the times she tested there were hundreds of hairs. Out of all these hairs coming from different locations, she found only one hair that showed signs of apparent decomposition.

Cross – The one hair that was unidentified came from a collection paper form one item, but she doesn’t know which items. And the one hair that had decomposition came from the trunk. And this witness has no idea where Casey was living in the 31 days prior to the collection of the hair – so this witness doesn’t know if she was wearing the clothes from the residence.

Re-Direct – Baez asks if she was given items from where Casey was living if she would have tested them. She says she certainly could have.

The witness leaves.

And so does the judge. He has an important budget meeting.

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