Monday, March 19, 2012

A California prosecutor speaks out on #SheriSangji

In this week's letters section, a number of letters on the Sheri Sangji case, including this little tidbit from a California prosecutor in another jurisdiction:
Being the left-leaning, environmentally minded ex-chemist that I am, I generally agree with Baum’s editorials. However, as a California prosecutor I was surprised to read his take on the punishment that UCLA chemistry professor Patrick Harran should receive for his part in the death of Sheharbano Sangji. A young woman, who received no safety training and wasn’t even wearing a lab coat, died while working unsupervised with a pyrophoric liquid, and Harran should face only community service because safety lapses in academic labs are “all-too-common”? Imagine if we applied that logic to DUIs and other “all-too-common” offenses that result in injury and death. 
This letter expresses my opinion only and not that of my employer. 
By Dije Ndreu
Monterey, Calif.
There's nothing quite like an attorney for putting a spin on a case.


  1. "Spin". Think of what the DA lawyers are actually going to say! The jury is not going to be made up of chemists. I think that this "spin" is going to be their most effective argument. And, I think that it's a spin that the defense knows that they are going to have a tough time effectively argue against to this line of reasoning to a jury. The arguments against this are going to go more technical. This is a great sound-bite. Easy to understand. It will undoubtedly stick with the jury.
    If the defense were confident that they could effectively argue against this and similar arguments, I don't think that they would be in the bargaining talks that they are currently in.

    Now ... I don't fully agree with this line of argumentation. I just think that it will be INCREDIBLY effective to a jury of non-chemist peers.

  2. This exact sentiment was vocalized on this blog, if I'm not mistaken.

  3. One man's spin is another man's pathos.

  4. Prosecutor prosecute. That's what they do. And this letter shows just that.

  5. I think it's a pretty persuasive argument myself and I am a chemist. I think one could also argue for a deterrent factor. Just because many academic labs have been lax about safety it doesn't mean it is right or desirable and that this case could send a message for all labs to clean up their act.

    I am also fascinated with the spin in the highlighted letter. The prosecution will argue that Ms. Sangji was untrained and undersupervised and should not have been allowed to handle the dangerous material. UCLA's and Harran's spin (based on their public statements) is that Ms. Sangji is a trained professional who didn't need supervision and she chose not to take those safety precautions. I'm going to predict that this spin will not be convincing to the jury (if it comes to that).

  6. I agree re: deterrence. As the Chinese say, you can 'kill a chicken to scare a monkey'.

    Also, I agree that the prosecution will win, especially if UCLA/Harran go with the ridiculous "Sangji was a trained professional" line. They should be able to blow that out of the water easily.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20