THE EVIDENCE PILES UP
Saturday brought on the forensic phase of the trial full force. We've heard about the banded hair found in the trunk and the evidence from the Pontiac Sunfire introduced, including the air sample material. The prosecution mentioned that they had held Gerardo Bloise in case the last witness was done early. I suppose he will testify to the contents of the "trash" bag. Baez did ask one interesting question which was overruled when he was on the stand. According to Baez, there were two boxes of Velveeta cheese in the bag. The fact is, there were EMPTY boxes of Velveeta cheese, along with the empty foil wrappers. In fact, if you look at the pictures of the trash, it consisted of empty food containers. While the empty containers may have smidgeons of organic matter left, it wasn't very much! Healthy young men don't throw away actual food, they eat it! I have a hunch that the cadaver dogs will come next, followed by Dr. Arpad Vass. Based on what happened at the Frye hearings and the hearing about the cadaver dogs, it will be interesting to see how the defense handles the witnesses who were convincing enough to have Judge Belvin Perry allow their testimony into evidence.
Casey Anthony entered the courtroom. She did not display her usual smile for her attorneys. She looked more serious than usual in talking to her attorneys.
Judge Perry called the Court to order at 8:59 AM.
Jose Baez mentioned he wanted to rehash all of his objections to Dr. Vass taking the stand today.
After deposing him on Friday evening, Baez pointed out that the database had yet to be turned over to the defense.
Baez pointed out that the database could have exculpatory information and they did not had the proper opportunity study it in order to examine him on this information.
Judge Perry simply said OK and asked who the state's next witness was.
Dr. Arpad Vass was the state's first witness today! (I guess I was wrong in my earlier prediction!)
The jury was called in and Arpad Vass was called to the stand.
Vass was first asked to give his fields of expertise, which were many, and his educational background. He explained how he became interested in forensic science and took a position at Oak Ridge where he met Dr. Michael Bass and he became so interested, he asked Bass to be his mentor to pursue a PhD in forensic anthropology.
His dissertation and thesis to determining how to establish post-mortem interval (time since death) based on bio-chemical studies.
Jeff Ashton asked Dr. Vass to describe the Anthropological Research Facility (The Body Farm). Vass explained that it was founded in 1972 and there have been about 1100 test subjects who had gone through the facilities. Ashton brought out that these are bodies which had been donated to science.
In his research, he was looking at the chemical breakdown of soft tissue as the body decomposes.
I have to wonder what the jury is making of all of this!
Vass described the 4 stages of decomposition: fresh, bloat, active decay, dry.
I won't go into the details here. If you really want to know, watch part 1 of the WFTV video when it comes up.
Baez objected to the testimony because it was a narrative and the witness was not a biologist.
In the past, Baez has attacked Vass as not being a chemist.
Oops, Baez JUST objected because the witness isn't a chemist!
Judge Perry, in a rather dismissive voice, overruled Baez.
Baez is ignoring the fact that this forensic anthropologist would have to have a strong background in sciences in general or he couldn't do his research.
Baez then objected, based on proper predicate and was overruled.
While not very pleasant, Vass' explained the process in simple terms that the jury could understand.
Unfortunately, Vass was so rapt in the topic, he had to be told to slow down!
Jeff Ashton made sure that terms the jury might not understand are explained more clearly to the jury.
Baez kept on objecting and being overruled every time while Vass was explaining the decomposition process.
An interesting bit of testimony was that there were four reasons for more rapid decomposition: heat and humidity, presence of water, PH, and presence of oxygen.
In each of these reasons, as explained, the elements of rapid decomposition apply in this case.
In early decomposition, there are volatile fatty acids (article published in 1992) in early decomposition.
Inorganic elements were more important in later stages of decomposition.
He received his PhD in 1991 from the University of Tennessee (using the "Body Farm" in his research). He then went on to work at Oak Ridge Labs the following year.
Vass described the Oak Ridge Labs in detail.
Another objection overruled.
When he believed he had reached the limit of his knowledge in the field of death interval in 2000-2001, he went on to another challenge.
Since he liked challenges, Vass moved on to the detection of clandestine graves.
Up until that point, the use of cadaver dogs and geophysical tools such as probes and magnetometers.
Vass began to study odor evolution from decompositional events. They buried a number of individuals and put in a piping system around the bodies.
They began monitoring which chemicals which were produced at each stage of decomposition. The gasses would enter the soil and into the pipes and tested them as they reached the surface of the soil (where cadaver dogs would smell it).
At that point, Ashton asked Dr. Vass about his history of knowledge of the odor of human decomposition. Vass told the jury about the 50 individuals at the Body Farm and other cadavers he had smelled.
He found the odor to be unique. There is literature that comments on this. as to the chemical compounds that are released.
Vass also had the experience of smelling the decomposition of animals, such as pigs and roadkill. He testified that the odor of human decomposition was distinguishable. Wild animals have a more musky odor. Domesticated animals, such as pigs, have a much sweeter odor.
Vass continued his research after his 2004 paper on the topic.
Dr. Vass then went through the various complications that occur in testing the gasses, due to changes in barometric pressure and rain.
Baez again objected because the answers Dr. Vass was giving were narrative and unresponsive. This one merited a bench conference.
Jeff Ashton asked the court reporter to repeat the last question, so I suppose Baez was again overruled.
After two years of studying buried individuals, he started studying bodies above ground and started working with a different type of fiber filters.
That work also took place at the Body Farm (a term Ashton couldn't use).
Again, please refer to he videos to get the gory details! They are way beyond my typing abilities, especially since Vass talks rapidly.
Vass explained that some of the bodies were wrapped in tarps and others were just laying on the surface.
He then explained how he collected the gassed that were emitted from the bodies.
Vass said he studied the unburied remains for 3 to 4 years. They took the samples weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly as the bodies became skeletonized.
At that point, Ashton presented Vass as an expert in the field. Baez objected and Judge Perry accepted him.
Dr. Vass was contacted by Det. Yuri Melich. They discussed the case and the OCSO began sending him materials to test.
Ashton then showed a box, which Vass identified. Ashton then cut the seals and showed the contents. Vass identified the metal can that was submitted to him.
Baez objected (use the microphone so we can hear, please). There was another bench conference at that time.
Once the bench conference broke up, the Judge admitted the evidence over the defense objection.
There was talk of a sample tested by Dr. Wise, but the results weren't used in his opinion. They were unsure of the collection method.
Vass then sent the OCSO the equipment mentioned yesterday by Gerardo Bloise.
He received back from the OCSO the tubes used to collect the air samples and Vass identified them one-by-one, prior to being put into evidence with no objections.
Time for the 15 minute break!
The jury was called to the courtroom and Dr. Vass' testimony continued.
Vass was assisted Mr. Marcus Wise and Dr. Mhadavi Martin. The GC/MS is located in Dr. Wise' laboratory.
Dr. Wise used the GC/MS in assisting Dr. Vass with his work.
Baez objected that Vass cannot testify about other witnesses' testimony. Overruled.
A sample of the air in the can was inserted into the GC/MS and analyzed. Dr. Wise shared the results with him.
The results of the concentrated air sample showed that...
Baez objected that this testimony was beyond the scope of this witness' expertise.
The lawyers then went to yet another side bar.
Dr. Vass was permitted to continue with his testimony. He went over the chromatogram with Dr. Wise and it reflected a number of compounds. It showed a large peak of chloroform and smaller peaks of other compounds. (Chloroform peak marked in blue)
Ashton asked if he'd had experience with anaerobic human decomposition, which he did. Vass stated that they continued to study the carpet sample because the chloroform was shockingly high. They then tried to concentrate the air sample to get better results. They then went on to the next round of testing. They then removed the piece of carpet from the can because they weren't sure the air in the can was representative of the compounds in the carpet.
They placed the piece of carpet in a Tedlar bag and incubated it because the sample came from Florida. They anticipated the temperatures and chose to do so to speed the process. They wanted to get the compounds in the carpet, not from the atmosphere in the can originally. They did a GC/MS analysis on the gasses.
He was present for the testing. The result was that they were able to identify 51 different compounds, including chloroform. Again, the chloroform was the highest peak again. The amount of chloroform shocked him. They had never seen chloroform in such amounts. It was far more than seen in human decomposition.
They later tried to quantify the amount, and they shot a standard. They didn't identify the exact amount of chloroform, but it was in the parts per trillion. In decomposition, it was parts per million.
All of this testimony was elicited over a number of objections by Mr. Baez. He is telegraphing to the jury that this information is bad for the defense.
He tested a piece of carpet from a similar vehicle. Ashton then offered a diagram for comparison.
Baez objected on any number of grounds.
Judge Perry asked who conducted the test and asked if that was the data they used to formulate his opinion. It was admitted into evidence.
The highest peak was the chloroform. The smaller peaks to the right were compounds found in gasoline. There are some overlapping compounds in gasoline and human decomposition.
Ashton then showed the graph from the car they used. From the mark on the chart, you can see the level of chloroform in the control carpet. (Chloroform level in blue)
The chloroform in Casey Anthony's car was 10,000 times the amount found in the other cars. In the other car, the amount of chloroform was considered a trace amount.
Once Vass completed his evaluation, he submitted the carpet to Dr. Mahdavi Martin to use a LIVS analysis for testing for inorganic compounds.
Baez again objected, Vass is not a physicist! Overruled.
When explaining the LIVS process, Perry asked him to slow down. Vass, in his way said, "I get excited when I know something!" So far, that's my quote of the day.
Baez then objected again that he was testifying outside his area of expertise and was again overruled.
Vass explained that each element produces a light signature. The test was used in his opinion for the court. In this test they were looking for inorganic compounds associated with human decomposition.
Baez then objected to the graph produced as beyond the area of expertise and voir dire the witness.
As Baez began, Judge Perry ask the jury to be removed.
Judge Perry then read from the Florida Evidence Code. From what he read, it sounded as though the expert should be allowed to use reports as they use them in their own labs.
He asked Mr. Baez that if he wanted to attack methodology, to be abundantly clear, that expert witnesses are allowed to rely on the reports of others! What Baez was going into was proper for cross-examination, but he could continue to see if he was going where he said he was going to go!
Baez started by asking what the results of the LIV tests were. Vass said that the inorganic chemicals related to human decomposition were higher in the Anthony car sample than in the control samples.
Baez asked if the elements he named were abundant in nature. He also pointed out that Vass was not a physicist. Vass explained that the elevated elements in the test only confirmed what his nose told him.
Baez kept asking very general questions and Vass carefully explained the testing that was done.
The defense objections were overruled and he told attorneys for both sides to read sections of the document he had quoted from before.
I'm guessing that Baez hadn't done his homework again.
The jury was returned to the courtroom and the questioning continued.
We saw the comparison chart where Vass drew a line at the bottom which demonstrated the amount of calcium in the control car and marked the higher peaks of calcium in Casey's car.
Vass also did some minor chemical extractions using carpet fibers from the sample.
This would identify compounds that wouldn't vaporize into the air. He found Butyric Acid, a volatile fatty acid found in early decomposition.
Jeff Ashton finally got to Vass' reaction to when he opened the can. Vass said he was shocked that the little can could smell so strong. He recognized the odor of human decomposition, of which he's had 20 years of experience.
Vass was also given scrapings from the wheel well of the car.
The defense objected to the admission of the scrapings for all the usual reasons, plus chain of custody.
Acetic Acid was one item found. It is a by-product of human and decomposition and the manufacture of chloroform.
Vass received some paper towels from Dr. Neil Haskell.
Baez also objected as he had done before. (Lately, chain of custody has reared it's ugly head.)
We then had yet another side bar!
Jeff Ashton finished the morning's testimony by questioning Vass about the fact that everything was sealed in the box.
Baez then inspected the box in the hopes of adding an objection. He made the usual objections and Judge Perry received it into testimony CONDITIONALLY.
I wonder what that is about?
We are in lunch recess until 1:30.
After the lunch break, Jeff Ashton asked about the analysis of the paper towels. Vass replied that there were a number of fatty acids on it. They were significant because they are the "ingredients" of adipocere, or grave wax. It is associated with decomposition.
Based on the air samples taken from the triple sorbent traps from the garage and garbage that had been in the trunk showed that the carpet was the point source of the odor, not the garage or the bag. The majority of the pertinent compounds were found in the carpet, but not in the garage or the garbage bag.
Dr. Vass gave examples of odor analysis. Every odor we smell contains a combination of chemicals that create the specific odor. They can all have compounds in common, but they will not be identical.
There were 51 compounds in the odor in the car. 41 were associated with decomposition. Some of the compound overlapped with gasoline odor. They looked at other components of the air and subtracted those compounds as well. There were about 16 compounds left. 7 of them were considered significant out of the 30 significant ones found in their studies. There was more explanation, but it was basically a paring-down process, removing the overlapping compounds.
Jeff Ashton asked if the overlapping compounds could have been from decomposition. Vass agreed that they could be.
Of the significant 30 compounds found in the study, the 7 that remained after the paring process were the most relevant in human decomposition. Vass also testified that there is no one specific composition of decomposition odor since the compounds change as the process goes on.
Vass' decision was that the odor was consistent with human decomposition. In addition, we learned that the acetic acid found in the wheel well is not one of the most common 30 chemical compounds found in human decomposition. Acetic acid is in vinegar.
The inorganic compounds found in the carpet were the ones that one were to be expected in human decomposition. They were all in elevated levels. Vass added that butyric acid is a component of early decomposition, but it it not found commonly in the environment.
The significance of the paper towels was that every one of the volatile acids which are found in adipocere were there. It does not appear in living human beings.
With all his test findings and his sense of smell, Vass believed that there was a human body decomposing in the trunk.
With that, Jose Baez began his cross examination.
Baez started out by pointing out all the sorts of scientist Arpad Vass was not.
I have a friend who is a noted physicist who studies such things as black holes. He is not an astronomer. Baez would have said that since he was not an astronomer, he could not be an expert in black holes!
He went through his CV again with Baez and went through his degrees. His PhD was in anthropology, Baez noted. Vass said it was an oversight that it didn’t say forensic anthropology. He sent an updated CV to Mr. Ashton.
The report he produced for the court was a forensic report co-authored by Mhadavi Martin (physicist), David Wise (analytical chemist), and himself, listed as a research scientist.
Vass pointed out that he consulted with Dr. Wise. Vass said he last took a course in biology in the '80's. He told Baez that he has never held himself out as a chemist. (Baez tried to get in Facebook and Wikipedia accounts which list him as a bio-chemist. It didn’t work since Vass himself said he didn't do Facebook and never put himself in Wikipedia and had never asked anyone to do it for him!)
Then we went on to financial interest in his appearance in court. Vass didn't believe he was there for financial reasons.
Baez then went on to the data base. Vass said he didn't use the data base for his opinions, rather peer-reviewed publications which referenced it.
Then, Baez brought out his wrinkled note-pad-on-easel.
According to Vass, the data-base has 478 chemicals.
Baez asked if he waited 17 days to take the first sample from his first test bodies. Vass explained that it took the gasses 17 days to work them up through the soil.
Baez then asked if Vass turned over the database to the defense.
Then, there was a bench conference.
Upon returning, Vass answered that it wasn't his database. He believed it was given to the defense since he was questioned about it at the deposition last Friday. According to Baez, the defense only received was a list of the chemical compounds.
Baez then went through how Vass applies for grants and that his research facility is different from a forensic lab. (I wish he had asked Vass what the differences were!)
Baez then said that Vass owned a patent for a machine called a Labrador. Vass said he didn't own the patent, but was one of the inventors. Vass also told Baez that the Labrador does not use the entire data base.
Baez then tried to accuse Dr. Vass of using his appearance in court was to get publicity for the Labrador so he could earn a lot of money.
Vass explained to Baez how they developed the instrument. It was the laboratory's decision to file a patent or not. Vass said his goal was not to sell them, but for the license holder to produce them so that police and other law enforcement cases could use them to locate bodies.
Baez then went on to royalties. Vass said he doesn't know the details, but if a licensee decides to produce and market it, he would get royalties, but the amount of money he would receive would not be significant. Then, Baez tried to say that he would get 15% of the royalties. Vass countered by explaining that the 15% would be divided among all the inventors.
Baez should have known these facts already, he asked them during the Frye Hearing. Oh, wait! Baez had to get that out for the jury to hear. I have my doubts if they bought that the good doctor was there for fame and fortune.
FYI, if you work for a company or a laboratory and invent something, the organization you work for owns the rights to the invention. In the case of the Labrador, the market is self-limiting. Such a machine would not be something marketed to the general public!
Baez tried to get Vass to say he billed the Labrador project for his expenses for his work in the case. Vass said he did it on his own time and did not bill any project for his work.
(Interspersed here are prosecution objections. The fact is, the Labrador has nothing to do with this case!)
There was the inevitable side bar.
The prosecution objection was sustained.
Baez then asked if he made a financial disclosure when writing his report.
Vass said he did make a disclosure.
This made me wonder; what financial interest was he supposed to disclose? As far as I could tell between the Fry Hearing and today, Dr. Vass has yet to see any financial reward for his hard work to date!
Baez then went into the differences between research and forensic labs. Baez asked if research labs don't have protocols. Vass said that they are the ones that develop protocols. In this case, the protocols he did use were published in the 2008 articles.
Baez then challenged him that the bodies discussed in those articles were buried. Vass pointed out he used the same methods in his studies of bodies that were also left out in the open.
Baez then brought up the lack of quality controls in research labs. Vass pointed out they did use quality controls.
It was a real battle here. Baez tried to cut down Vass, and Vass cut down Baez' questions every time.
He was asked if there was any records of quality control. Vass mentioned they were in Dr. Wise's bench notes.
Then, we were on to the quantitative versus qualitative analysis. Baez asked if this was a qualitative analysis. Vass agreed, saying that they were looking at large peaks versus small peaks.
Baez indicated that Vass' August report was a preliminary report. The prosecution objected when Baez questioned Vass about the fact that before his report came out, the media had the information.
Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to side bar we go...
When Baez returned, he addressed Mr./Dr. Vass and asked if he was aware the information was leaked to the press.
Baez brought up an e-mail with Michael Vincent. In fact, Dr. Vass indicated that he was annoyed by that.
Vass was then asked if he had his preliminary report with him. Vass said that he didn’t nor did he have the second preliminary report.
Baez asked how many chemicals he reported in the first report. Vass remembered it was 54. When asked about the second report, Baez brought the second report to him to refresh his memory. Jeff Ashton joined Baez at the witness stand for a moment to check the document.
In the second report, Vass reported 51 chemicals. They were from the same run. Vass indicated there was an overlap with gasoline. Those were removed from the list. Also, in the first report, there were 43 consistent with decomposition and 41 in the second report. (From what I learned about this, Vass was refining his report so as not to report overlapping chemicals.) After that, Baez said 19 chemical compounds overlapped with gasoline in the 1st report and in the second report, there were 17.
Vass pointed out to Baez that the final report was not based on those numbers and was the most accurate. (That’s why they were called preliminary reports!)
Baez pointed to Vass that he had reported that they had obtained 3 Pontiac Sunfires. Vass said it was an error in that he had taken 3 samples from the 2 cars. He also pointed out he had sent them an affidavit which addressed the issue.
When asked about taking notes, Vass said that sometimes he takes notes and sometimes he does not. Baez then asked if he reviewed Dr. Wise's bench notes. Vass said he didn't.
When Judge Perry asked if Baez was using Dr. Wise's bench notes to impeach Dr. Vass, Baez says he wasn't impeaching him.
Earlier, Vass had said that they had looked for the dirtiest, urban vehicles to used for comparison analysis. He believed a new carpet would not be appropriate for the comparison.
Baez started asking a bunch of questions as to Vass' knowledge about the composition of the carpets and other items. Vass said he didn't.
When asked about the contents of the garbage bag, Vass stated that he only had a list of them, but knew there were only EMPTY food containers.
Vass testified that he did test air samples from the garbage. Baez then pulled the evidence from the table to give the date of August 30 as the date of one of the samples. He then went into the air is a free-flowing environment issue. Vass was also asked if he knew what happened to the garbage between July 23 and August 30. He said that he didn’t, but that he used these samples to draw his conclusions.
Then, Baez went through all the different air samples used to test everything: the car, the garage, and the trash, relating them to the columns on a chart in Vass’ report. Vass stated that did not use the sample from the trunk in the table Baez was referring to because it was taken from the trunk after the liner had been remove.
Baez pointed out that Vass eliminated all but three chemical compounds because of overlap. Vass replied that he did that to be extremely conservative.
There then seemed to be a bit of confusion between Mr. Baez and Dr. Vass. Baez was trying to say that there were only 3 actual chemical compounds in the car related to human decomposition when there were more that, but Vass, to be conservative, had omitted all the compounds which showed overlap.
Baez then moved on the LIVS. First, Baez had to make sure that everybody knew that Dr. Vass was not a physicist!
Let's get something clear, Vass is not a physicist and has the intelligence to consult with one to have tests run which give him the information he needs to do his study! Besides, Dr. Martin won't let anyone touch her machine!
Then we were back to the junk yard cars. Vass mentioned that it was "cool" that the junk yard cars had less decompositional chemicals and chloroform than Casey's much cleaner trunk! Baez also brought up the issue that the trunks of the control cars were open and unlocked when they were in the junkyard.
I apologize if I'm losing it here, but what Dr. Vass had been saying made sense to me. I agreed that it was "cool" that cars in a junk yard which were probably much dirtier, did not have all those chemical compounds in them!
After a blessed afternoon recess, Dr. Vass was up on the stand again.
Baez then went back to the trunk liner. He reminded Vass that it had been sprayed with Blue Star and asked if he did a test spraying with Blue Star as a control. Vass did not remember that. Baez flipped through the pages for a while and gave the book to Dorothy Sims to find the reference.
Baez said that the spraying and running of a sample with Blue Star was never done. Instead, he went to the data sheets on the project. When a chemist looked at the list of chemicals in Blue Star, there were none that contributed to the chemical compounds of decomposition.
They did the same with Febreeze. Baez asked about chemical interactions, and Vass didn't think there were any. Baez again pointed out that he wasn't a chemist.
Baez wanted Vass to write on his big note pad. Instead, he dictated the non-organic compounds found in the carpet to Baez. Baez asked how many of them could be found in soil. Vass said probably all of them in small amounts.
Baez retrieved the notebook from Ms. Sims and did a little more flipping through the pages to ask his next question.
We were on to the paper towels. Another sheet of paper on Mr. Baez’ easel and the fatty acids were listed.
Baez informed Dr. Vass that adipocere forms in marshy conditions and takes a few weeks to form. Vass gave a long, scientific explanation. The compounds he found were on paper towels in the trash.
When Baez asked if it could be found in a hamburger, chicken, etc. Vass did say that the hamburger would have to have a high fatty content and be raw, and he did not know the fat content of chicken.
Vass went on to explain the conditions for formation of adipocere.
Baez also reminded Vass that he had found small amounts of THC and cannibal, metabolites of marijuana.
Baez asked if it was adipocere or a person with the munchies.
Vass replied that the meat would have to be raw, in anaerobic conditions, and have bacteria normally found in the human body. A person would have to eat 10 pounds of meat with a bag over their head to replicate the results of the volatile fatty acids found on the paper towels!
Baez then brought up the hunt for hidden graves at the Barker Ranch. An immediate side-bar resulted.
When the side-bar was completed, Judge Perry sent the jury out.
Mr. Baez then proffered testimony about the Barker Ranch. Baez told Vass that in March 2008, he was asked to analyze soil samples for the Barker Ranch. They were analyzed with a GC/MS. The findings were consistent with a decomposing body. They then used several instruments to examine areas found by cadaver dogs.
According to Vass, they did an exploratory excavation and did not find any body at the depth they dug. At the depth they dug, they only got to the level of the ground as it was 40 years ago. Vass pointed out that the environmental issues, not the equipment that caused the problem.
Baez tried to get in a statement that he had told the media that the science was still in its infancy. Since he could not establish a foundation at that time, the question wasn't answered.
Baez then asked about his error rates. Vass said you can't use error rates for this kind of situation. Vass then mentioned such things as barometric pressure needed to be taken into consideration in their outdoor search.
Then, Dorothy Sims found the quote and Baez read it. Vass said that he could not verify the statement because he didn't have it in context.
Jeff Ashton then brought up the limitations in the depth to which they dug. They said it was a preliminary, and not a full excavation at the time.
Judge Perry asked a few questions about the Barker Ranch/Manson case. Vass said that it had nothing to do with this case.
Perry ruled there would be no questions about the Barker Ranch because it was irrelevant and the conditions were totally different.
The jury was then returned and Baez wrapped up his cross.
Baez then moved on to the proper protocols for collecting samples. He asked if he told people not to collect the samples near an area with gasoline and they were collected in an area near gasoline.
Vass pointed out that THAT was where the evidence was. (Yep, the car did have some gasoline in it!)
Baez also brought up other conditions that would be poor for sample collection. For example, they should not be taken near aerosol cans, trash, etc.
Vass pointed out that the particular protocol was written for taking soil samples outdoors in a field.
(In this case, the samples were taken in a crime scene where there were such items. There was a car, a trash bag, and a garage where the car was stored.)
Then, Baez asked Vass what divining rods were!
Back to the bench!
During the bench conference, Dr. Vass was called over to talk with the lawyers and Judge Perry, very unusual.
After the bench conference, Baez started off by asking Vass about his ability to find clandestine graves. Judge Perry didn't believe Baez when he said he was just asking to set up his next question.
When it came to divining rods, it turned out that one of Dr. Vass’ hobbies is to try and use a coat-hanger divining rod to locate graves!
Vass was asked two questions by Baez that were objected to and sustained, as well as the question that he'd tried to put electronic leashes on flies.
Vass didn't know that this was the first time his data base was admitted into a trial. Baez said that Vass' findings are NOT accepted by the scientific community. (Objected to and sustained) Vass also was able to cite another researcher in Greece had similar results.
Baez said that, in the entire world, that person was the only one to agree with him. (Objected to and sustained)
Vass pointed out the differences between his study and the Greek one.
Baez then attempted to impeach Vass about his ability to identify the odor of human decomposition. He pulled out a statement he made to the Knoxville News where he said that human decomposition smelled like a potato gone bad.
Vass said he made that statement. He did look at a rotten potato, but found that the chemical composition was completely different.
Baez then brought up the issue of fluoride not being found in his research. He didn't find it in the positive control either. (Blanket from a deceased child wrapped in it in the trunk of a car) However, 8 of 10 pertinent compounds found in the car were in the blanket.
Baez then went on to list all the items that he did not personally collect. He did not know the history and the make-up of the items. Vass pointed out that he did know the make-up of the items since he had tested for them. He also made the comment that he was grateful he didn't find more positive controls such as the blanket which had held the remains of a deceased child.
Vass also pointed out that every forensic study is unique.
Baez then went back to the defense table to have Dorothy Sims tell him what else to ask.
Baez then brought up that Vass does not belong to any number of professional organizations.
Vass said that his background was so diverse that he wouldn't know which one to join.
(If the question-answer sequence between Jose Baez and Dr. Vass seems disjointed, it’s Jose Baez fault because he jumped from topic to topic.)
Ashton then conducted his re-direct.
Ashton asked which was the reason he was a scientist: finances or scientific curiosity. (I think you can guess the answer to that one!)
Vass then called his deposition with Baez an inquisition. When Jeff Ashton asked if he had to ask someone else about the financial issues involved in the Labrador, Vass admitted he did, after the deposition.
Vass said that for his controls for the car trunk, he purposely went out to find the most contaminated samples of Pontiac Sunfires he could find.
Vass was then asked to explain diffusion. He explained that diffusion is when gasses go from a higher concentration to lower concentration. A lower concentration item could not contaminate a higher concentration item.
That was the significance of finding the point source. The carpet sample had the highest concentration of the pertinent chemical compounds, therefore, it couldn't be contaminated.
Vass stated that neither Blue Star nor Febreeze contained chloroform.
Ashton then asked for a scenario for how the volatile fatty acids got on the napkins.
Vass said that the meat would have to be raw, high-fat, not dairy products, from a mammal,and that it would have to be decomposing in anaerobic conditions and contain bacteria normally found in the human body.
Ashton asked about the Greek study. That study had found 80 compounds and there was significant overlap with his study. However, that study did not last as long as his did and the bodies had been those of two people found floating.
Ashton then asked for more details on the positive control. Vass stated that he had to find an item from a child who was carried around in the trunk of a car for three months. The child was 3 years old. The only substance which wasn't found in the control was the chloroform.
Ashton also had him give his theory why there were no fluorinated compounds. Vass said that it is assumed that the fluorine did not accumulate in the body due to the age of the child and had not stored it in the body. In cities where there is no fluorine in the water, the bodies there do not have any either.
Baez was then up on re-cross. He brought up the fact that the issue of fluoride has not been studied and he was willing to come in front of the jury and make statements about things that have never been studied.
Vass said it was an argument which is founded in bio-accumulation studies.
Baez also said that Vass had no information that the paper towel and the stain had anything in common.
Vass said that he did not. He also stated that it was relevant because both items were found in the trunk of the car.
Baez again asserted that they could have been used to wipe off a counter. (That one made no sense to me at all. Vass said that it would take around 10 pounds of fatty meat to create that amount of adipocere!)
There were a couple more questions and with all the objections, Baez gave up.
When Judge Perry asked if Vass could be excused, Jeff Ashton indicated he should stay because there were issues to be brought up. Vass left the stand.
After a brief side bar, it was announced that the next witness would take more than 25 minutes, so Judge Perry said that testimony would end for the day. Perry informed the jury that the new list of movies had been approved and the jurors left the courtroom for the day.
Jeff Ashton pointed out that Dr. Vass was appearing today on an interstate subpoena. The defense had served Vass with a subpoena to produce the data base, which is prohibited under an interstate subpoena.
The defense withdrew the subpoena.
Baez said that they would probably call Dr. Vass in their case. Dr. Vass could return home and the defense would have to make arrangements for him to return.
We were in recess until 9 AM tomorrow!
I have to say, I enjoyed listening to Dr. Vass testify. He presented his information in a way that the jury could clearly understand. Baez tried to very hard to discredit him personally, which I find repugnant. Dr. Vass is clearly not in his profession to become rich and famous. As I have mentioned in other posts, any financial gain from his share of the royalties from the Labrador won't support the life of a rich and famous man. I do have a feeling that Mr. Baez could be projecting his own values onto others.