Dr. Arpad Voss testimony (Oakridge Laboratories)

Discussion in 'Witness Testimonies and Closing Arguments' started by mombomb, Jun 6, 2011.

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  1. mombomb

    mombomb New Member

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    JB addressing the Court regarding Dr. Voss's database. Database could contain exculpatory information to show that his testimony and opinions are not in conformity with his database and JB does not have the opportunity to cross examine him on this.

    State calls Dr. Arpod Voss.

    Jury coming in.
     
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  3. mombomb

    mombomb New Member

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    Direct examination of Dr. Arpad Voss by JA.

    He's a senior research scientist at Oakridge National Laboratory - been there almost 20 years. He then listed his education. His Ph.D. dissertation was developed around Dr. Bass's work at the Body Farm in the area of forensic anthropology - post mortem interval - determining how long someone has been dead. This was in the late 1980's.

    The Oakridge facility - in the early eighties it was the only facility in the world where you could study a whole body decompositional event - 1.5 acres in size. Began in 1972. 1100 test subjects - bodies donated to science - left outside under various conditions - some in cars, some buried and some on the surface.

    Post-mortem intervals - his initial research was looking at the chemical breakdown of soft tissue - analyzed decompositional fluid to determine how long an individual was dead.

    4 stages of decomp - fresh, bloat, active decay and dry. Fresh stage - 2 processes - autolosys (self-digestion process) After sudden death, the cells don't realize the body is dead and they continue to metabolize - byproduct is carbon dioxide which builds up in the cells and is acidic.

    JB objected and HHBP overruled.

    Cells are breaking down and becoming acidic. Blisters occur and then skin slippage. One of the first visual signs that something is amiss. This gives the body a moisture laden appearance. This allows the second process of decomp - putrifaction - where microscopic organisms now feed on the nutrient rich fluid. The organisms can come from inside or outside the body. Decomposition is the liquification of the body.

    Bloat stage - when micro organisms in the intestinal track produce gas.

    Objection by JB - overruled.

    When someone dies the rectal region and esophagus can become blocked. The gases then have no place to escape, so it builds up in the abdominal region, causing appearance of a bloated abdomen.

    Final stage is active decay - the major 40 to 80% of the decomp process - liquification, leading to the dry stage - mummification and skelatinization.

    Four processes that are important in the rate of decomp - temp most important, then presence of water, then ph, then the presence of oxygen.

    Higher temp excelerates decomp.

    His study looked at the liquids. Learned fat and muscle breaks down into volatile fatty acids. There was one publication on this - in that was the analysis of inorganic components. A variety of inorganic components could be used to determine how long a person has been dead. First paper was published in 1992.

    First 10 years at Oakridge was looking at a variety of methods to look at volatile fatty acids.

    He received his phD in 1991, then went to work at Oakridge.

    The Oakridge National Lab is under the Dept of Energy, largest research laboratory. Roughly 4000 employees, guest researchers. Key areas of research which require multi-disciplanary teams looking at climate change, bio-fuels. (JA to witness - I think you just went past the "be brief" part.)
     
  4. mombomb

    mombomb New Member

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    Direct examination of Dr. Arpod Voss by JA. (continued)

    There came a time, after the third model which was based on how tissue breaks down in very early decomp, when they felt they had gone as far as they could. Bio-chemically he felt he had reached the limit of his knowledge. This would have been early 2000 or 2001. Up to then he felt time since death was the most difficult challenge.

    Next area - locating clandestine graves - complicated process. Up to that point the primary method of finding was geo-physical in nature - none very effective. He was looking for a more universal way. Mot successful way at that time was cadaver dogs, they then looked at odors by burying a number of individuals with a piping system so that they could monitor the chemicals being produced around the body, in the soil and at the surface which would be the odor the dogs could smell. This lead to the development of instrumentation.

    Odor of decomp - over the 20 years there, they have followed 50 individuals from fresh dead to skelatinization. They also looked at 100's of bodies at individual time points. He has found the odor to be unique. There is literature that describe the chemical components liberated in decomp. He has also worked with the odor of animal decomp, including pigs. They also use road kill - deer, dogs, cats.

    He has found the odor of human decomp to be distinguishable from animal decomp. Animals have a more musky scent. Domesticated animals have a sweeter scent.

    Initial paper on the odor of decomp was published in 2004. This paper related to the establishment of the graves, an assimilation of the chemicals and an evaluation of the environmental parameters - temp, rain fall, pressure. A high pressure will push chemicals down into the ground.

    Objection by JB - overruled.

    Rainfall - some chemicals in decomp are water solluable and some aren't.

    The second paper - had been looking at bodies that had been in the ground for 4 years and were skelatonized.

    Objection by JB - SIDEBAR (#1)

    (News Commentator saying this is breaking history - first time this testimony has been admitted in Court - air sample testimony)
     
  5. mombomb

    mombomb New Member

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    Direct examination of Dr. Arpod Voss by JA - continued.

    Research continued after 2004 paper. In addition to studying buried bodies, they looked at bodies on the surface, skelatonized bodies and then using a different type of technology.

    10 surface individuals - some lying on surface, some loosely covered with tarps, some in body bags. Samples were obtained from the buried bodies using a carbon filter attached to the tubing. The same procedure was used for the surface individuals, but they put the tube in the body bag or put it close. They used an air pump. The tube is then removed, sealed, taken to the lab and then uses thermal desorption - heating tube causing gas to flow and examined in a gas chromatograph. Also, a portion of the gas is chriogenically frozen into pellets - a concentration type technique. They can detect minute amounts. This was used in both buried and above ground remains. They studied the above ground remains for two to three years. Samples were taken initially weekly, then bi-weekly, then monthly as the decomp process slowed down.

    2004 paper was updated in 2008.

    JA submitted Dr. Voss in the area of forensic anthropology and human decomposition.

    JB objected and HHBP accepted him as an expert.
     
  6. mombomb

    mombomb New Member

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    Direct examination of Dr. Arpad Voss by JA - continued

    First contacted in this case in 2008 by YM. He then began to receive items to exam.

    First item was a metal evidence can. He dentified the box containing the can. JA cuts tape on box.

    (Casey sitting there with a blank far away look on her face)


    JA showed him the can in the box. He recognized as the can he was sent.

    JB objected to can being entered into evidence as not having the proper chain of custody. HHBP looks at box and can.

    Sidebar (#2)
     
  7. mombomb

    mombomb New Member

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    Direct examination of Dr. Arpad Vass by JA continued

    Can received in evidence as #114.

    HHBP says break in 4 minutes.

    He also received a plastic bag with an air sample from the trunk and fibers from Dr. Sigmond. He did not use the plastic bag, Dr. Marcus Wise did. Wasn't sure how this sample was collected, not by normal procedure. Doesn't recall results. Wasn't used in his opinion in this case.

    He asked OSCO to take air samples from various parts of the car and garage. He sent them equipment to do this - an air pump used to collect air samples through TSTs (triple sorbant traps). This is what he used in his prior studies. Pump has two aquarium like pumps.

    He received the tubes back from the OSCO. He identified the packaging the traps were sent to him in. JB examining the packaging. Entered into evidence with no objection as Exhibit 115-122.

    15 minute recess to 10:40
     
  8. mombomb

    mombomb New Member

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    Bill Scheaffer says that Dr. Vass can now say that he has been recognized as an expert witness on the odor of decomposition in Orange County, FL. The next historically significant event will be Dr. Vass rendering his opinion.
     
  9. mombomb

    mombomb New Member

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    Direct examination of Dr. Arpad Vass by JA - continued

    Back to analysis of the items he was sent - he was assisted by others at Oakridge, Dr. Marcus Wise and Dr. Martin.

    Dr. Wise - lab where instrumentation for analysis was his. He is in charge of the instruments. He is an analytical chemist. A gas chromatograph mass spectrometer was used to analyze these items.

    First analysis of carpet sample was an injection of 8/10's mil of headspace of can.

    JB objection - overruled.

    The can lid was cracked, syringe inserted, 8/10's of mil removed with syringe and put in GCNS by Dr. Wise. No chryo trapping was used here. (Head space = volume of air in can)

    JB objected -

    Initial evaluation of unconcentrated air sample -

    JB objected and requested a SIDEBAR (#3 I think)
     
  10. mombomb

    mombomb New Member

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    JB moves to strike previous testimony. HHBP - NO

    Initial exam - large peak (chloroform). Chloroform is a compound he has dealt with in his research. It is an identified decompositional event product. The level of chloroform was shockingly and unusual. There were also a variety of very small peaks. They then tried to concentrate the air sample.

    He was with Dr Wise in the room as the next round of analysis was done.

    They removed the piece of carpet from the can.

    JB objected - overruled.

    They removed the carpet from the can and placed it in a plastic bag (Tevlar plastic bag designed as a product to contain air samples for testing). They put the sample in the bag and incubated it for two days at body temperature. The carpet came from the trunk of a car in Florida. They estimated temp in trunk was high nineties. They were trying to get the substance in the carpet to be released into the air specifically.

    They extracted 10 ml through the chryo trap concentration procedure and then examined it in the GCMS.

    JB objection - overruled.

    Results of concentrated analysis - 55 individual chemical components - one was chloroform. Chromatogram showed large, tall peaks indicating a greater concentration. The largest or base peak was chloroform. The amount surprised him - they were SHOCKED. They had never seen chloroform of that level in environmental samples in 20 years.

    Chloroform is a by-product of decomp - but in very small amounts - parts per trillion. They tried to quantify it in the sample. They injected a standard of chloroform in a known standard to verify their findings. They were then able to make a rough approximation of amount of chloroform - rough approximation - parts per million vs. parts per trillion that he had seen before.

    They could not further quantify it because they needed a more concentrated standard. Further quantification really wouldn't have been helpful to them.

    Chloroform has a high rate of evaporation - similar to gas.

    Objection by JB - overruled.

    Chloroform appeared in the trunk, over time it has evaporated - car was in tow yard, anthony garage, forensics lab. Then sample was taken. They could not approximate the quantity at an earlier time.

    Also tested a piece of carpet from another vehicle to determine if chloroform was naturally present. He was shown chromatograms from the control carpet and ICA's car.

    JB objection - document admitted into evidence at #123 - then published to jury over defense objection.
     
  11. mombomb

    mombomb New Member

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    Direct examination of Dr. Arpad Vass by JA continued.

    He indicated on Exhibit 123 the chloroform peak. The numbers showed rough approximations of amount of material present. Top # was 16 million counts. This from ICA's car. He then showed another group of peaks which he identified as components of gasoline. There are overlapping compounds of gas and the odor of decomp. Gas cans were in car. Looking at second chart - chromatogram of a standard vehicle, from a junkyard in Knoxville - a car of similar year, make and model. He indicated where the chloroform was on this one.

    (Dr. Vass is so cute and bubbly - hard to believe he works with decomp all day).

    The chloroform in the standard car was no more than 5,000 at most, as compared to 16 million in the trunk.

    In addition to the peak height, you have to look at the area under the peak. Software is used to obtain that area. For ICA's car, the area under was about 400 million. The area under the control sample from two different cars was 10,000. Chloroform is in environmental samples, but it is typically.... (objection by JB - overruled). Chloroform in environmental samples are typically trace amounts.

    Carpet was also tested for presence of inorganic compounds - laser inducted breakdown spectography (LIBS) - a nondestructive technique so that the defense could veryify the results.

    Objection by JB - overruled.

    LIBS a laser based technique - a YAG laser creates green light. (Asked to slow down - he says he gets excited when he knows something - so cute).

    Laser is directed onto the carpet. Elements are either in a ground or excited state. Laser sets up an excited state of the electrons. When the laser is turned off, the electrons fall down to a ground state. They then emit the energy they acquired.

    Objection by JB - overruled.

    The energy produced during excitation of electrons is released as a photon of light and picked up on a spectrometer. Every element produces a light signature. LIBS can be used to identify the elements present in a particular sample.

    This technique was used on carpet sample. He was not present when this was done, but he utilized the results in his opinion.

    Regarding results of the LIBS exam of the carpet - they were looking at elevated inorganic components consistent with decomp.

    He was shown a graph of the results. JB objects to Exhibit - wants to voir dire witness as to methodology.
     
  12. mombomb

    mombomb New Member

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    Voir Dire exam by JB of Dr. Vass.

    He is not a physicist. Dr. Martin did the LIBS. The procedure is well established.

    Jury sent out
     
  13. mombomb

    mombomb New Member

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    Jury out.

    HHBP - 97-04 of Florida evidence code - facts of data need not be admissible into evidence. Schwartz vs. state 1997 DCA decision.

    HHBP thought JB wanted to attack some methodology. That is not where you were going with your questions. Expert witnesses are able to rely on report of others in formulating their opinions - even if the evidence may not be admissible.

    HHBP to JB - you may continue your proffer so that we can see the point you were trying to make.
     
  14. mombomb

    mombomb New Member

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    Continued voir dire of Dr. Vass by JB.

    Results of LIBS showed inorganic elements consistent with decomp were elevated compared to the sample - calcium, magnesium, sodium, carbon, iron. He doesn't personally conduct LIBS exams. Elements are found in everything known to man. He is not a physicist. He knows which inorganic elements are liberated and elevated in decomp and thinks he can make a conclusion that since all these elements are elevated - it's just another corroboration of what his nose tells me is correct.

    HE SAID HE DIDN'T THINK JB QUITE UNDERSTOOD WHAT THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT - haha!

    They were comparing the car sample to the control sample.

    JA objected - overruled.

    JB - the only comparison was between the junk yard sample and this car in terms of LIBS.

    No further question.

    JB objects - testimony outside of scope of expertise and comparative analysis. Objection overruled. State and Defense asked to read page 745 of the 2010 ed of Eirhardt - first 2 full paragraphs particularly dealing with foundation requirement that must be laid before experts can regurgitate other things so things can move on.

    Jury coming back.
     
  15. mombomb

    mombomb New Member

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    Jury back.

    Continued direct of Dr Vass by JA.

    The chart he was shown (marked as next Exhibit) is the graph showing the inorganic compounds found on the LIBS from the junkyard car sample. Calcium was essentially not even present. The tall peaks were from the ICA car - calcium one of the main inorganic compounds in decomp.

    He also tested the carpet using very minor chemical extracts. He did them. They cut a few of the fibers and placed it in methynol overnight and then injected it into the GCMS. This was to detect compounds that weren't going into gas form. The headspace test only shows elements coming off of carpet, not stuck in it. They found the presence of beuteric acid - a volotile fatty acid found in decomp. It is the first compound liberated during decomp of the volotile fatty acids. This was actually in the carpet itself.

    His first reaction to opening the can - he jumped back a foot or two. It was very, very strong and he immediately recognized it as human decomposition that he has smelled for 20 years.
     
  16. mombomb

    mombomb New Member

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    Direct examination of Dr. Arpad Vass by JA continued.

    He agreed he also examined scrapings of the wheel well of the car. He identified the package as being the sample.

    ICA sitting expressionless.

    Scrapings admitted into evidence over defense objection as Exhibit 125.

    He did a chemical extract of the scraping - of particular interest - acidic acid found which is a byproduct of human decomp and also of manufacturing of chloroform.

    He also received paper towels from Dr. Neil Haskell. He identified the package.

    Sidebar #4 regarding the papertowels being admitted.
     
  17. mombomb

    mombomb New Member

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    Continued direct exam of Dr. Vass by JA.

    He received the paper towels in a white bag. It was sealed.

    JA attempted to get paper towels admitted into evidence. JB wanted to inspect the box and then renewed objections.

    Paper towels conditionally received into evidence as Exhibit 126.

    Jury recessed for lunch until 1:30
     
  18. mombomb

    mombomb New Member

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    Continued direct examination of Dr. Arpad Vass by JA.

    Left off at Exhibit 126 - paper towels sent to him. Chemical extraction in methynol of the stained and unstained sections and ran it through the GCMS. The instrumental analysis revealed a number of fatty acids present on the towels. These fatty acids make up adoposere (sp) or grave wax - the byproduct of the breakdown of fat and is associated with decomp.

    He also analyzed the carbon filter traps to confirm that the carpet sample was the point source of the odor. They also did an air sample of the garbage that had been reported to have been in the trunk. They confirmed that the carpet WAS the point source of the odor. It was a combination of chemical compounds. They also looked at the other parts of the car, the garage, etc. The same group of compounds in the carpet was not found in the trash or the garage air.

    Rose has one set of chemicals, trash has another set. The total combination of the source is what makes it unique. In the car trunk sample there were 51 different compounds. 41 were related to human decomp. Of those 41, there was overlap with gasoline. They did not know if the gas odors came from gas or decomp, so they eliminated those, leaving 24 compounds. They then began looking at control samples and eliminating compounds found in the control car, squirrel, pizza, garage. This left approximately 16 compounds. 7 of these are considered significant - meaning in the 2008 paper there are 30 compounds considered relevant to decomp. Of the 500 found, they paired it down to 30 - looking at the longevity of the compound, normally found in environment, how unusual.

    In the trunk of the car, they found essentially 13 of the 30 - eliminating some due to the gas, left 7.

    The gas compounds were eliminated because they did not know whether the source was from gas in the trunk or decomp.

    Objection by JB - overruled.

    30 compounds - as in 2008 paper - come from different stages of decomp - what they consider the most relevant compounds either in early or late. Decomposition is cyclic due to different degradation rates of elements. It is highly unlikely that at any one point in decomp you would find all 30 compounds.

    7 compounds left - these were found to be in the list of 30 compounds that they found to be most relevant to human decomposition.

    He does not think there is a specific chemical odor signature for human decomp.

    He considers the odor in the car consistent with human decomp.

    Regarding scraping from tire well, the acetic acid is a product of decomp - just not one of the 30. It is also found in many things - vinegar.

    Regarding spare tire cover - all the inorganic compounds of decomp were indeed elevated, but these elements can be found in other things.

    Regarding carpet extraction - beuteric acid is not normally seen in environmental samples, but very consisent in decomp. It is usually metabolized by micro organisms and therefore not normally seen in the environmental samples.

    Taking all of the instrumental examinations and adding to that his olfactory observation of the carpet smell, it is his opinion that there was a decomposing body in the trunk of the car at some point. He can find NO OTHER PLAUSIBLE EXPLANATION.

    End of direct exam.
     
  19. mombomb

    mombomb New Member

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    Cross examination of Dr. Arpad Vass by JB.

    He is not a chemist, not an analytical chemist, not a bio chemist.

    On his cv - b.s. in biology, masters in criminal justice. PhD in anthropology. He stated that was an omission on his prior CV and has updated it since.

    His report is a forensic report - co -author Dr. Martin - physicist and Dr. Wise - an analytical chemist. Under his name he put research scientist, not anthropologist. He consults with Dr. Vass because his area of expertise is chemistry. Dr. Vass's last chemistry class would have been in the eighties. He has never allowed people to think he is a chemist.

    Has he read a Facebook post saying he is a bio-chemist. He has never posted anything on Facebook. He has never submitted anything to Wiki. He has never authorized Oakridge Lab to hold him out as a chemist.

    He does not have a financial interest in this case.

    Two papers he relies on comprise and built a database. The peer publication is what he uses to render his opinions. The database was used to present the data in the publications.

    The database consists of 478 chemical compounds. They buried 4 bodies (2004 paper), set up instruments to measure what was generated at the body, what was moving up the soil and what was being liberated at the surface of the soil. It took 17 days for the chemicals that are generated at the body to migrate up through the soil column to the surface.

    JB asked if the database was turned over to the defense.

    Sidebar #4 or 5?
     
  20. mombomb

    mombomb New Member

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    Continued cross examination of Dr. Arpad Vass by JB

    Objection overruled.

    The database is not his to turn over. It was a "deliverable" to the organization who paid for the research. He does not know if it has been turned over. He actually thought it had been turned over. Without the grant money, there is no research. They are a research lab. Their product is research data. Part of his job is to bring in research money.

    He holds the patent of the "Labradore" equipment which utilizes the compounds found in the 2008 paper. It is a hand held device that looks like a metal detector. His position requires him to file invention disclosures. This equipment was formulated thru a grant for the Department of Justice. It is the lab's decision whether or not to file a patent. He has no say in that decision at all. His goal is not to sell the equipment at all - rather to develop it. The goal was to create a technological tool that law enforcement could use to locate clandestine graves.

    If a licensee licenses the patent, there is a royalty fee associated with that, but he considers it an insignificant amount. He doesn't know if the royalty is related to the number of units sold. 15% royalties is split between the inventors.

    JB wanting to know if part of the process is to get verification in Court - objection by SA - sustained.

    In 2006 there was an initial prototype. His CV shows other products.

    Objection - improper impeachment -

    Sidebar
     
  21. mombomb

    mombomb New Member

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    Continued cross exam of Dr. Arpad Vass by JB

    Financial disclosure required for some journals. JB asked him if he filed a financial disclosure in his report in this case. He did not.

    Research lab/forensics lab - research data is their product. Usually the research lab develops and establishes the protocols. Some of their testing has protocols. For this case the protocols are published in the 2008 and 2004 peer reviewed publications. He does not think that is totally different than what he did in this case. Procedurely they used the same things. It is found the Materials and Methods section. If you want to replicate an experiment, the procedures and protocols are listed in the publications. Buried remains were part of the 2004 study. In the 2008 study they looked at surface and skeletal bodies.

    Quality control - they run blanks and standards.

    Regarding contamination - the bench notes would address any contamination issue.

    He did a qualitative analysis in this case. This meant they were identifying certain chemicals. As opposed to quantitative analysis which measures the amount. Qualitative can also address the size of the peeks. They were looking at whether the compounds were present or not and then a rough idea as to the abundance - big, little, trace.

    His preliminary report was issued in August. It did not contain his final conclusions.

    JB asked him if he issued an opinion to the media before his report that there was decomp in the trunk. Objection - move to strike.

    Sidebar.
     
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