Wednesday, September 5, 2012

LADA takes plea deals off table in #SheriSangji case, not guilty plea entered for Professor Patrick Harran

C&EN's Michael Torrice (who was in the courtroom) on today's legal proceedings in the #SheriSangji case:
A judge in a Los Angeles County court moved forward today with arraignment of University of California, Los Angeles, chemistry professor Patrick Harran on three felony charges of labor code violations. The court entered a not guilty plea for Harran because his attorneys had objected to the arraignment altogether. 
Harran was in charge of the UCLA laboratory where, in 2008, research assistant Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji was severely burned in a fire; she died eighteen days later from her injuries. Because of the judge’s decision to move ahead with the arraignment, Harran’s attorneys withdrew a motion, filed on July 26, that challenged the chemistry professor’s arrest warrant as well as the credibility of a California state investigator whose report on the accident was used to charge Harran. 
L.A. County Superior Court Judge Shelly Torrealba scheduled the preliminary hearing for Oct. 9. Evidence in the case will be heard on that court date and a decision will be rendered whether prosecutors have enough to support a criminal trial. Harran’s defense team says they will reserve the right to bring up objections made in their July motion to dismiss. 
At today’s arraignment, L.A. County Deputy District Attorney Craig Hum said discussions of a plea deal between his office and Harran’s attorneys had ended.
So the judge's ruling Baudendistel gambit has been delayed until October 9. As additional confirmation of the prosecutor's position, here's the relevant line from the local CBS news radio station (KNX 1070):
Prosecutors said any plea bargain deals offered to Harran have been rescinded.
If you would have asked me if Professor Harran would ever go on trial, I would have said, "No way." I'm still convinced that the likelihood of a trial is below 50%. I would now put it at 33% (from an original position of less than 10%), but we shall see. 

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