Friday, September 9, 2016

And the hits just keep coming

Well, that certainly didn't take long.

Already ankle deep in an evidence destruction scheme in Precinct 4, Harris County DA Devon Anderson has a new mess on her hands. And this time it has to do with drunk driving.

Dr. Fessessework Guale works at the Harris County Institute for Forensic Sciences, until very recently she was one of the managers in the toxicology department.

Dr. Guale was always a favorite expert witness for the state. She would take the stand and tell the jury how accurate and reliable blood alcohol testing was. She would then take out pen and paper and mystify the jury as she calculated what the defendant's blood alcohol concentration would have been at the time of driving. Nevermind that no one had ever bothered to test the defendant's metabolism or measure the time it takes alcohol to be absorbed into his or her system. Forget that the patron saint of blood alcohol testing, Dr. Kurt Dubowski, wrote that so-called retrograde extrapolation (guesstimation) was notoriously unreliable. Nope, nothing was going to stop Dr. Guale from getting on that stand and telling the jury that the defendant - beyond any doubt - was clearly intoxicated at the time of driving. Hell, she didn't even need to view the scene video or offense report - she just knew.

She also knew about killing cats in the name of science. She studied veterinary science back home in Ethiopia and did some serious experimentation on cats. Of the four published articles which she claims, only one has to do with toxicology. The others all have to do with animals.

But one field she might not have know quite so much about was toxicology. For years she took the stand and, under oath, told juries that she had a master's degree in toxicology. Now for some of the folks who ended up sitting on a jury, that was all they needed. If she has a post-graduate degree in toxicology then she probably knows what's she talking about, right?

Um, not so fast.

It turns out that Dr. Guale's master's degree from Oklahoma State is in some field called physiological sciences. On her statement of qualifications (which is submitted to the accreditation agency) she states she has a Masters of Science in Toxicology (just take a look below). Ooops. She claims toxicology is a sub-discipline of physiological science but that's debatable coming from her mouth.

"My training is in toxicology but the degree says physiological sciences, which is a big area which toxicology is a sub part of it. It's called a sub discipline." 
-- Dr. Fessessework Guale

Unfortunately that's not what the Oklahoma State University website says when you look up "physiological sciences." It appears that department is part of the school's Center for Veterinary Health Sciences.

The Department of Physiological Sciences at Oklahoma State University contributes substantially to the teaching, research and service components of the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences.

-- Oklahoma State University website

I believe that makes Dr. Guale a perjurer. Just how many cases over the years did she take the stand and lie about her educational background? Just how many times did she lie on her curriculum vitae about her educational background? Just how many times was her falsified CV sent to defense attorneys during discovery?

And if she was so willing to lie about her educational background, what else has she lied about? And since we now know she is a liar, can we, should we, believe anything she has said on the witness stand? For you see, it's not a question of counting up the lies to determine whether or not someone is trustworthy; it's a question of whether or not someone who has lied can ever be believed.

And now Devon Anderson says she's getting to bottom of it. And I'm sure she's in a hurry to do so. Apparently the DA's office has decided they will no longer use Dr. Guale as an expert witness. But will she remain employed with HCIFS? Even though she has lied continually about her academic qualifications, will she or the lab suffer any repercussions?

Every case in which Dr. Guale testified as to retrograde guesstimation needs to be re-examined. Every attorney who handled one of those cases should be notified. And, should we find out that anyone in the DA's office knew about Dr. Guale's lies before now, any convictions which relied on her testimony about blood alcohol concentration should be vacated. In fact, any case in which a defendant was convicted and Dr. Guale testified should be brought into question - particularly since the verdict form does not indicate under which theory of intoxication the jury convicted the accused.

Devon Anderson has shown herself to be largely incompetent in running the Harris County DA's Office. She is certainly not to be trusted. But what should we expect from a person who took charge of the office not through an election but through an appointment after her husband (who failed to disclose his medical condition during his campaign) died less than a year into his term?

1 comment:

Lee said...

I thought we had a State Bar of Texas to handle prosecutorial misconduct?