January 31, 2015

Marine Biology Expert Witness To Testify in BP Trial

British Petroleum expert witnesses will testify before U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in an effort to lower the possible $13.7B fine as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. BP hopes to prove the damage was not as devastating as originally projected. Dr. John W. Tunnell Jr., marine biology expert at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi, will testify regarding the spill's impact on fish, shellfish and birds in the Gulf of Mexico. The marine biology expert witness is Associate Director and Endowed Chair of Biodiversity and Conservation Science.

The Harte Research Institute website explains that the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout was unprecedented not only because of the volume of oil that leaked from the well but also the location wehre the oil was escaping was almost a mile beneath the Gulf's surface, “creating problems with which responders had never before been confronted….”

During all previous spills the oil rose to the surface and drifted with the wind so modern oil spill response equipment and techniques have been designed to deal with that scenario. However, in the case of Deepwater Horizon, plumes of oil drifted with currents at various depths, settled to the bottom or dispersed throughout the water column making the use of skimmer ships, floating booms and controlled burns less effective.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement is working on updating regulations on Oil and Gas Production Safety Systems.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement is proposing to amend and update current regulations regarding production systems and equipment that is used to collect and treat oil and gas from Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) leases. The proposed rule will address recent technological advances involving production safety systems, subsurface safety devices, safety device testing, and life cycle analysis. Production systems play a critical role in protecting personnel and the environment. This rule will help to reduce the number of production incidents resulting in oil spills, injuries and fatalities.

Background
There are more than 3,000 facilities located on the OCS that are involved in the collection and treatment of oil and gas collected from oil and gas wells. These facilities range in size and scale from unmanned single well caissons to huge, manned deepwater facilities containing state of the art technology. All of the facilities contain equipment, sensing devices, and control systems to ensure that the oil and gas can be moved from the well to a pipeline in a safe and environmentally protective manner.

This proposed rule will revise 30 CFR 250 subpart H - Oil and Gas Production Safety Systems and make the first major changes to this section of the regulations since 1988. This regulatory action will ensure that the regulations are keeping pace with industry's recent technological advancements, which often rely of the use of equipment that is located on the seabed. These new technologies are more complex than those that were traditionally used for shallow water drilling on shelf areas, where safety equipment was traditionally placed on the rig itself, rather than on the seafloor. With the shift to deeper water in the past decade, more specialized requirements and regulations are required for these newer and emerging safety technologies.


January 20, 2015

Child Abuse Expert Witness Testifies In Case Against Texas Teacher

Psychologist and child abuse expert witness Dr. William L Carter testified in the Waco, TX, case against Sergio Bezerra. The former Waco Baptist Academy teacher was convicted of abusing two students in 2008 and was sentenced to 80 years in prison. Four young women testified that Bezerra molested them. Dr. Carter did not evaluate the victims but described how the abuser brings victims into abuse, many times starting with favoritism.

Protocols involved in a Child Sexual Abuse Forensic Interview are discussed on the Forensic Pediatrics Experts - Child Abuse & Child Safety website:

General Protocols
Child Forensic Interview Expert Analysis Components
An objective assessment of a forensic interview involving a child who reports sexual abuse is a prudent component of quality improvement and assuring proper procedures were followed. A poor interview does not discount the possibility of sexual abuse. However, the format and process of the forensic interview have been developed to minimize leading questions and ensure as accurate a history as possible.

The interviewer of a child or adolescent presenting with concern for sexual abuse or sexual assault should remember the following principles:
audiotape or videotape the interview, if possible;
use a minimum number of interviews (perhaps two or three), as multiple interviews may encourage confabulation;
avoid repetitive questions, either/or questions, and multiple questions, and try to avoid leading and suggestive questions;
use restatement, that is, repeat the child’s account back to the child (which allows the interviewer to see if the child is consistent and ensures that the interviewer understands the child’s report)

Child Sexual Abuse Forensic Interview Process and Protocol
conduct the interview without the parent present (if the child is very young, consider having a family member enter the room and separate thereafter;
if a camera or microphone is present, inform the child that people responsible for making them safe may be watching, but that no family member is observing the interaction. Only investigative team members should be observing a forensic interview;
use an examination technique that is appropriate to the child’s age and developmental level, such as drawings and play re-enactment;
determine the child’s terms for body parts and sexual acts; do not educate or provide new terms

Content of a Child Sexual Abuse Forensic Interview
A forensic interview should not take the form of an interrogation. Note the child’s affect while discussing these topics and be tactful in helping the child manage anxiety. Young children may not be able to report all of the relevant information and disclosures commonly emerge over time. The examiner should explore the following:
whether the child was told to report or not report anything;
what relationship the child has to alleged perpetrator was;
what the alleged perpetrator did;
where it happened;
for multiple occurrences that are reported, when the abuse it started and when it ended;
number of times the abuse occurred;
if and how the child was initially engaged and how the abuse progressed over time;
if and how the alleged perpetrator induced the child to maintain secrecy;
whether the child is aware of specific injuries or physical symptoms associated with the abuse;
whether any photography or videotaping took place.


Read more: Forensic Pediatrics Experts - Child Abuse & Child Safety

December 27, 2014

Accident Investigation Expert Witness Testifies Re: Excessive Speed

Accident investigation expert witness Travis Webster testified in the case against 19 year old James Crosby in the death of Kathy Lattimore, 67, and Derek Nichols, 20. Crosby was found guilty of manslaughter in the December 31, 2013 Newfield, NY, crash. Webster, a New York state investigator, calculated that Crosby was driving over 84 mph when he hit the victims vehicle. Crosby was found guilty of manslaughter as well as second-degree assault, third-degree assault and reckless driving in the fatal crash.

The prosecution described Crosby’s driving as reckless while defense attorney Joseph Joch said freezing temperatures may have caused icy conditions when Crosby’s car crossed into the opposing lane. Eye witnesses testified that they saw Crosby passing other cars at high speeds on windy roads that night.

Accident investigation experts take into consideration collision analysis, collision speeds, skidmark analysis, and speed determinations, as well as related issues.

December 13, 2014

Police Procedures Expert Witness Testifies In Castle Doctrine Case

Police procedures expert witness Ron Martinelli, Ph.D., B.C.F.T., C.F.A., C.L.S., testified in the Missoula, MT, homicide case against Markus Kaarma. The defendant is accused of fatally shooting German foreign exchange student, Diren Dede. The 17 year old was in Kaarma's garage allegedly looking for alcohol when he was shot and killed.

Dr. Martinelli’s testimony described flaws in the investigation and said if he were investigating the case, “there was much more work that needed to be done before they made their decision" in charging Kaarma. He went on to say that officers charged Kaarma precipitously and then worked to “make the evidence fit the charge.”

Dede was not armed but Montana's stand-your-ground law makes it easier for defendants to avoid prosecution in a shooting if they felt an imminent danger at the time of the incident.

Wikipedia explains: In the United States, stand-your-ground law states that an individual has no duty to retreat from any place they have lawful right to be and may use any level of force, including lethal, if they reasonably believe they face an imminent and immediate threat of serious bodily harm or death. Forty-six U.S. states have adopted the castle doctrine, stating that a person has no duty to retreat when their home is attacked.

November 23, 2014

PTSD Expert Witness Testifies On Clinical Criteria

Post traumatic stress expert witness Mitchell Clionsky testified for the defense in the Springfield, MA, lawsuit against nightclub owner Demetrious Konstantopoulos. Cara Lyn Crncic alleges that a 2011 assault by Konstantopoulos has caused her to suffer from PTSD. However, the psychology expert testified that the defendant’s actions were not violent or threatening enough to meet standards for PTSD and that other incidents in Crncis’s life are contributors to her anxiety. Dr. Clionsky is the Director at Clionsky Neuro Systems, Inc. in Springfield, Massachusetts. He testified that a diagnosis of PTSD must meet clinical criteria.

The National Institute of Mental Health explains PTSD:

PTSD develops after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm. The person who develops PTSD may have been the one who was harmed, the harm may have happened to a loved one, or the person may have witnessed a harmful event that happened to loved ones or strangers.

PTSD was first brought to public attention in relation to war veterans, but it can result from a variety of traumatic incidents, such as mugging, rape, torture, being kidnapped or held captive, child abuse, car accidents, train wrecks, plane crashes, bombings, or natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes.

Currently, many scientists are focusing on genes that play a role in creating fear memories. Understanding how fear memories are created may help to refine or find new interventions for reducing the symptoms of PTSD.

Signs & Symptoms
PTSD can cause many symptoms. These symptoms can be grouped into three categories:

1. Re-experiencing symptoms
• Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
• Bad dreams
• Frightening thoughts.
Re-experiencing symptoms may cause problems in a person’s everyday routine. They can start from the person’s own thoughts and feelings. Words, objects, or situations that are reminders of the event can also trigger re-experiencing.

2. Avoidance symptoms
• Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience
• Feeling emotionally numb
• Feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry
• Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past
• Having trouble remembering the dangerous event.
Things that remind a person of the traumatic event can trigger avoidance symptoms. These symptoms may cause a person to change his or her personal routine. For example, after a bad car accident, a person who usually drives may avoid driving or riding in a car.

3. Hyperarousal symptoms
• Being easily startled
• Feeling tense or “on edge”
• Having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts.
Hyperarousal symptoms are usually constant, instead of being triggered by things that remind one of the traumatic event. They can make the person feel stressed and angry. These symptoms may make it hard to do daily tasks, such as sleeping, eating, or concentrating.
It’s natural to have some of these symptoms after a dangerous event. Sometimes people have very serious symptoms that go away after a few weeks. This is called acute stress disorder, or ASD. When the symptoms last more than a few weeks and become an ongoing problem, they might be PTSD. Some people with PTSD don’t show any symptoms for weeks or months.


June 22, 2014

Dentistry Expert Witness Testifies Re: Dentist Office Death

Dentistry expert witness Dr. Gary Pearl testified on behalf of the Connecticut Department of Public Health in the case against Dr. Rashmi Patel. State health officials are trying to permanently revoke Patel’s dental license after the death of Judith Gan. Gan died an hour after getting implants and 20 teeth extracted in Patel’s office. During the procedures, the retired librarian’s vital signs dropped and dental assistants asked him to stop. By the time 911 was called, Gan had no brain waves or heartbeat.
While Dr. Patel says he did nothing wrong, state health officials suspended his license in April. Dr. Pearl testified "It's my belief that (Gan) did not have to die to receive this dental treatment and it is because of… Patel's negligence that she died."
In 2013 a male patient was being treated for an extraction that resulted in a six day hospital stay for heart and lung damage. The patient's throat pack was sucked into his lungs.
The Connecticut Department of Public Health website describes the investigation process.

CONSUMER GUIDE TO THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH’S INVESTIGATION AND HEARING PROCESS
The process starts with a complaint. The department investigates a person whom it suspects has engaged in some wrongdoing or suffers from a condition that interferes with safe practice. That person is referred to as a Respondent. The department may become aware of a Respondent from a number of
different sources such as: a person affected by the respondent such as a patient, an institution such as a hospital, peer or work supervisor, a separate unit of the Department of Public Health, notice in the media, TV, newspaper, etc., filing of a civil suit, etc….

The department may ask professionals practicing in the same field as the respondent to review the department’s case. These professionals are referred to as consultants. At times, the use of consultants may cause a delay in the investigation due to the consultant’s busy schedule at his/her own practice, as well as his/her responsibility to thoroughly evaluate the case. The reason for seeking the opinion of a consultant is to determine whether the respondent’s alleged conduct falls below the standard of care for that field. The investigation may take a few weeks or it may take longer than a year to complete.

June 16, 2014

Child Abuse Expert Witness Testifies In Texas Case

Child abuse expert witness Dr. James Lukefahr testified in the case against Matthew Aranda following the death of Aranda's adopted daughter Melody Velasquez, 3. Aranda claims that she accidentally fell down a flight of stairs but medical experts have testified that the death was a homicide. Dr. Lukefahr, director of the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, told the jury “If someone or something could cause her to be thrown or pushed down the staircase at a very high rate of speed, then that conceivably (could) cause some of those fatal injuries that she had.” Melody suffered broken limbs, ribs, multiple bruises and head injuries.

The professor of pediatrics testified recently before the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities in San Antonio, TX. He presented statistics showing that in 2013 Texas had 156 child abuse and neglect deaths. In 2011 there were 231, and 280 in 2009.

The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities held its first public meeting this week at the University of Texas, San Antonio on June 2-3, 2014. CECANF was established by Public Law 112-275 (112th Congress), the Protect Our Kids Act of 2012, to develop a national strategy and recommendations for reducing fatalities across the country resulting from child abuse and neglect. The meeting in San Antonio was the first opportunity for Commission members to gather detailed information and insight related to federal policy, research, and practice associated with child abuse and neglect fatalities, with a practice focus on Texas.

Commission chairman David Sanders said the panel came to Texas because, though the number of child deaths has decreased in recent years, the state leads the nation in the number of child abuse and neglect deaths. “What do we have here and does it work?” he said. “We heard about education, but the question is whether it’s effective.”

The panel’s next meeting is July 10 in Tampa, Fla., followed by a meeting Aug. 28 in Detroit.The panel could draft its first report by year’s end.

The commission’s work is available online at
eliminatechildabuse
fatalities.sites.usa.gov.

June 8, 2014

Gun Range Expert Witness Testifies In Texas Case

Gun range expert witness Albert Rodriguez testified that the County Line Shooting Center, San Marcos, TX, was built in the wrong place and is a “major threat to human life.” Rodriguez is a former Texas Department of Public Safety gun range master and testified that hundreds of bullets have been fired onto neighboring property. Property owners filed a lawsuit to have the range shut down or brought up to safety standards.

In Outdoor Shooting Range Best Practices, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources describes specifications for the shooting range backstop.

A backstop is a device constructed to stop or re-direct bullets fired on a range A backstop is the key component providing range safety and use for people in the area in and beyond a rifle or pistol range. Current NRA and NSSF safety philosophies are predicated toward range self-containment of shot rounds, i.e., “if it’s shot here, keep it here.” A properly constructed backstop at a rifle and/or pistol range are usually constructed out of a core material of compacted soil, rock or crushed cement, covered by rock-free earthen material, up to a recommended height of twenty (20) feet at a 1:1 slope (soil type dependent), with a 4 foot-wide flat top. Backstop width will be dependent upon the numbers of shooting stations the range operator wants installed at the firing line.

January 30, 2014

Forensic Pathology Expert Witness Testifies In Hyperthermia Death Case

Forensic pathology expert witness Dr. Robert Kurtzman testified in the Grand Junction, CO, case against Heather Jensen. Jensen is charged in the 2012 hyperthermia deaths of her two young sons. Kurtzman described how children succumb to hyperthermia more quickly than adults. Dr. Kurtzman is a Staff Pathologist at the Grand Junction Community Hospital and former Former Mesa County coroner. The Mesa County Coroner's Office website explains their role:

Deaths may be expected, but others; which are sudden, unexpected, and suspicious or from a violent act are investigated by the Coroner’s Office. The responsibility of the Mesa County Coroner’s Office is to conduct a complete unbiased forensic investigation to determine the cause and manner of death, and to answer any questions which may arise. Questions which seem irrelevant in the initial hours after death can become significant in the following months....

Associated Responsibilities

Pronounce the death and establish time of death - Only a physician or the coroner may pronounce a death.
Scene investigation - Colorado law is specific that the body of a deceased person may not be moved until the coroner has responded to the death and conducted the investigation.
Take custody of the body - Colorado law states it is the responsibility of the coroner to see that the body is removed from the scene.
Make positive identification of the deceased - Identification and notification of the next of kin.
Discovery of Remains - Remains that are complete or partial are sometimes found, thus the coroner must follow certain statutory obligations notifying other state agencies.

Suspicious Death Protocol includes:

County Coroner
1. The Coroner’s Office will be notified immediately. As noted above, the official from the Coroner’s Office will be escorted to view the body and pronounce death. Every attempt will be made to insure that the body is not moved until viewed by the Coroner’s Office.
2. If the Coroner’s Office is notified before law enforcement, the Coroner’s Office will immediately advise dispatch to notify the District Attorney’s Office and law enforcement authorities and then proceed to the death scene or to view the body. Prior to entering the death scene, the official from the Coroner’s Office will coordinate his/her efforts with the Crime Scene Supervisor in order to preserve the scene and avoid contamination, as noted above.
3. The Coroner’s Office will determine the need for a forensic autopsy.
4. The Coroner’s Office will communicate directly with the Lead Investigator and the Crime Scene Specialist to facilitate transport of the body to the autopsy and /or funeral home.
5. All unattended child deaths will be autopsied by a forensic pathologist.
6. Depending on the circumstances of the investigation, the autopsy may be attended by Law Enforcement and / or District Attorney or his/her representative. Since the autopsy is part of the investigation to show cause and manner of death, as well as to communicate with law enforcement about details of the investigation, this information would be considered sensitive to the investigation and attendance by others such as defense attorneys, defense investigators and members of the media would not be appropriate.

January 17, 2014

Toxicology Expert Witness Testifies In Dallas Cowboys Player Trial

Toxicology expert witness Justin David Schwane testified in the manslaughter trial of Dallas Cowboys player Josh Brent. The Dallas County Crime Lab toxicology chemist testified regarding blood alcohol calculations and determined that Brent had been drinking heavily before the accident that claimed the life of teammate Jerry Brown. Schwane went on to say that Brent may have had as many as 17 alcoholic drinks for his blood alcohol level to reach 0.189. Schwane tested three samples of Brent’s blood at the time of the arrest.

Brent drove his car at 110 mph in a 45 mph zone and crashed into a curb which caused the car to fly into the air.

January 2, 2014

Child Psychology Expert Witness Will Testify In Child Care Assault Case

Child psychology expert witness Dr. Sheri S. Corning, Texas Psychology Service, PLLC, will testify on behalf of Christa Williams-Yates and Mark Yates in their case against Kid City Child Care Learning and Sports Center LLC and Symons Kid City Management LLC of Galveston, TX. In the Galveston County District Court case, the Yates claim that their daughter suffered a dislocated arm after being "violently yanked" by a staff member in 2012.

After the incident, the Yates describe their daughter as distrustful of adults and acting out violently. Child psychology expert witnesses may consult on child psychological trauma and conduct disorder, as well as related topics.

December 31, 2013

Forensic Science Expert Witness & New Haven Trial

Former doctor Lishan Wang has asked that forensic science expert witness Dr. Henry C. Lee defend him in his New Haven, CT, murder trial. Wang is charged in the 2010 death of Yale University physician Dr. Vajinder Toor.

Dr. Lee is founder of the Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science, Chief Emeritus of the Connecticut State Police, and founder and professor of the Forensic Science Program at the University of New Haven Dr. Lee testified on bloodstain pattern analysis in the O.J. Simpson trial.

December 27, 2013

Use Of Force Expert Witness Testfiies In Defense Of CA Police Officers

Police Corporal Stephen Rubio testified in the case against two former Fullerton, CA, police officers in the 2011 death of Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill homeless man. Officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli are accused of beating Thomas with a Taser gun, resulting in his death. The use of force expert witness testified that the officers were working within the police department's policies and the use of force was consistent with police training. Rubio is a use of force trainer for the Fullerton Police Department.

December 24, 2013

Art Appraisal Expert Witness Testifies In Farrah Fawcett Portrait Lawsuit

Art appraisal expert witness J. Lee Drexler testified in the case the University of Texas at Austin has brought against Ryan O'Neal. The University is seeking possession of a Farrah Fawcett portrait painted by Andy Warhol. Drexler is the president of Esquire Appraisals, Inc., and based her appraisal on pricing for other works by the artist. She told the jury that the portrait is worth approximately $12M. Appraisal experts may advise regarding fine art valuation, antiques, and collectables.

December 23, 2013

Environmental Expert Witness Testifies In Pipeline Case

Environmental expert witness Dr. Andrew Whelton, Professor at the University of South Alabama, testified for the Mobile Area Water and Sewer System case against Texas oil company Plains Southcap. The oil company has plans to build an interstate oil pipeline under a part of the Big Creek Lake watershed. Mobile, Alabama, circuit court Judge Robert Smith ruled in favor of the Texas oil company which gives the green light for the proposed oil pipeline to be constructed under a lake and reservoir that holds drinking water for a half a million people.

This decision bears scrutiny by environmentalists, as noted by the Mobile Tribune.

December 22, 2013

Wine Expert Testifies In New York Fraud Case

Wine expert witness Michael Egan testified in the New York fraud case against wine dealer Rudy Kurniawan. Egan, Director of Authenticity and Auctions at the Bordeaux Winebank, said that most of the wines at the home of Kurniawan were fakes and not rare vintages. Previous to this exposure, Kurniawan had been touted as one of a select few fine vintage wine collectors. Now he is facing jail if convicted of fraud. The alleged counterfeiter borrowed money against his collection and now owes a New York bank several million dollars.

At http://www.bordeauxwinebank.com, Mr. Egan explains that the production of "fake bottles of the greatest Bordeaux has increased dramatically these last few years." Egan spent over 20 years for Sotheby's in London.

December 20, 2013

Emergency Medicine Expert Witness Testifies For Fullerton, CA, Police Officers

Emergency medicine expert witness Dr. Gary Vilke testified in the case against two former Fullerton, CA, police officers in the death of Kelly Thomas. Officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli are accused of beating Thomas into a comatose state resulting in his death. Vilke testified for the defense in the death of the homeless man saying that Thomas did not die of asphyxiation as Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas alleges.

Dr. Gary Vilke is a professor of clinical emergency medicine at UC San Diego and Chief of Staff for the UCSD Medical Center.

December 19, 2013

Forensic Psychology Expert Witness Testifies In Declination Hearing

Forensic psychology expert witness Dr. Nathan D. Henry testified in the declination hearing for a 15-year-old Moses Lake, WA, boy accused of shooting his parents. Dr. Henry described the young man's maturity and possible risk to society. The hearing will determine if the defendant will be tried as an adult or a minor. He told police that his parents had banned him from playing video games. He is charged with two counts of attempted murder.

Declination hearings are extremely important in these types of cases because penalties for serious offenses are significantly higher when the individual is tried in adult court.

December 16, 2013

Criminal Justice Expert Witness Testifies In Class Action Suit

Correctional facilities expert witnesses may consult on the criminal justice system, imprisonment, incarceration, correctional facilities standards of care, and more. Criminal justice expert witness Dr. Richard M. Hough, Sr. testified in the Southern Poverty Law Center class action lawsuit against Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd and correctional healthcare contractor Corizon Connections. Hough testified that videos showed appropriate uses of force while the SPLC accuses Judd and Corizon Connections of unconstitutional jail conditions. Dr. Hough is a criminal justice instructor with the University of West Florida.

December 3, 2013

Child Abuse Expert Witness To Testify On Fatal Injuries

Child abuse expert witnesses are prepared to advise regarding child abuse and neglect, and the physical, emotional, or sexual mistreatment of children. A child abuse expert will testify this week in the Saline County, KS, case against Troy Love. Love is accused of first degree murder and child abuse in the death of Bre'Elle Jefferson. Defense attorney Roger Struble, of Blackwell, Blackwell and Struble, says the expert will show that the child's injuries were accidental.

Kansas 28th Judicial District information: http://www.kscourts.org/districts/District-Info.asp?d=28