Experienced Pharmacology Expert Excluded For Failing to Determine Accuracy of Blood Test Results


Pharmacology Expert Court: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
Jurisdiction: Federal
Case Name: Garba v. Waukesha Cty. Circuit Court
Citation: 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 212305

Facts

The petitioner was charged with a DUI, convicted by a jury, and sentenced to six months imprisonment. He brought about this writ of habeas corpus alleging that the trial court had erred in excluding the testimony of his pharmacology expert witness and that the court of appeals had erred in affirming such. The petitioner argues that his ability to defend his case depended upon the testimony of his pharmacology expert witness.

The day the petitioner’s blood was tested, several chromatograms from test vials indicated a series of jagged humps. These jagged humps appeared on the chromatogram before any signal should be detected. In other words, the chromatograms showed readings before the carrier gas had time to carry the sample through the column. Blood samples for the same person would sometimes display jagged humps in one test vial but not in the other. The cause of the humps was unknown. However, the laboratory calibrated the testing equipment daily and monitored its performance throughout the testing day. Additionally, although jagged humps appeared in chromatograms before and after the petitioner’s, his results contained none.

The Pharmacology Expert

The pharmacology expert witness was an experienced consultant in medical pharmacology and toxicology with bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and biology and both a master’s and a Ph.D. degrees in medicinal chemistry. He served for 19 years as professor of pediatrics, pharmacology, and myeloma research and for 5 years as chairman of the Institutional Review Board at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Over the course of his long career, the pharmacology expert directed toxicology laboratories. He also conducted research programs in the field of drugs of abuse, performing and developing analytical techniques for determining drugs of abuse and correlating levels found in humans with behavioral effects.

The expert was also a pioneer in human physiological fluid and tissue analysis with the help of liquid and gas chromatography. He published numerous articles in peer-reviewed medical and scientific literature and co-authored three books. The pharmacology expert had extensive experience testifying as an expert witness in numerous criminal trials, civil trials, and administrative hearings concerning drug findings across 28 states.

The petitioner’s pharmacology expert testified that the presence of these anomalies compromised the accuracy of the report and created reliability issues, but could not certainly state that the petitioner’s report was affected by jagged humps. The pharmacology expert further admitted that the laboratory conducted controls and standards testing every ten samples, and the results were within the accepted tolerances on the day the laboratory tested the petitioner’s blood. Furthermore, the expert witness admitted he could not say to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty that the test results were either accurate or inaccurate.

Discussion

The court accepted the presence of a right to make a complete defense granted to the appellant by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments, however it also noted that this right must “bow to accommodate other legitimate interests in the criminal trial process, including ‘fairness and reliability in the ascertainment of guilt and innocence,’ citing Simonson v. Hepp.

The court was of the opinion that the trial court correctly applied the Daubert principle in excluding the pharmacology expert’s testimony because the expert could not state with any degree of scientific certainty that the petitioner’s blood sample was faulty when no jagged humps were found in his report.

Held

The court denied the petitioner’s writ of habeas corpus and excluded the pharmacology expert witness’s testimony.

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