...What I know is that Harran as Sheri's direct supervisor and boss, and the leadership of UCLA, including safety officials Gibson and Wheatley, all had responsibility to Sheri - a legal responsibility, and a professional, moral and social responsibility – to protect her and keep her safe. All deliberately and knowingly violated the rules in place that would have kept her and others safe. Nor was this the first such instance of a person being injured – a year before Sheri's death, a student was badly burned in this department.
We believe that Harran should be held personally responsible for Sheri's death. He admitted in his interview with UCLA Fire Marshals that he ordered Sheri to carry out an unsafe experiment, one that he himself would not do – a clear statement of how little he valued my sister's life and how willing he was to endanger students and staff researchers merely to further his own work. He has not demonstrated the slightest bit of remorse for what he did to Sheri and for what my family has suffered. His lab was still found to be unsafe after Sheri's horrific death, as documented by OSHA inspections.
Failure to pursue felony criminal charges against Harran or allowing him to settle the case without our family being able to bring out what we believe occurred in front of a jury or in a report bearing on his sentence will be a grave injustice upon Sheri and upon our family...
But let me just tell you again, simply - we miss her. We miss her all the time. We miss talking to her, laughing with her. We miss the sound of her voice. We miss her smile. We miss seeing her in her favorite red T shirt that was so threadbare my mom would threaten to throw it out every time Sheri wore it - but now keeps under her pillow. Our parents barely leave the house for anything other than work. On Sunday mornings they go to the cemetery and weep uncontrollably at Sheri's resting place. Each day they suffer the way only a parent can at the loss of a child. They are mere shadows of the people they used to be. My brother and I will never recover from this senseless loss of our sister. He and I go through the motions, always with a heavy heart - missing her and thinking about all that she is missing. There is and always will be a sense of incompleteness in our family. And UCLA and Harran are responsible.
Our family feels strongly that unless you bring felony criminal charges against Harran, UCLA, and the UCLA safety officials, you will be absolving them of their roles in causing Sheri's death. It will be an injustice to her suffering and to ours. And other families will continue to remain at risk.
...There is no doubt in our minds that criminal prosecution, against the university and the professor, will be the single most effective deterrent to unsafe laboratory conditions in the future at UCLA, and at other universities where right now individual professors, by virtue of the money they bring to a university or by the research they accomplish, are allowed to do whatever they want, either because they demand it or because others kow-tow to them in these academic institutions.
You can't erase the agony and suffering Sheri endured, but you can bring about accountability and justice, and thereby save other innocent lives. Before you make your final decision, step into any burn center and see firsthand the excruciating pain and suffering Sheri experienced -- suffering that you may be able to prevent in the future. That is all we ask of you. Anything less is not fair to my younger sister, who did not get the chance to live to see her 24th birthday.
Thank you for your empathy and all your efforts,
Naveen Sangji, on behalf of Sheri's family