Under questioning by Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Marguerite Rizzo, Langerman said Sangji should not have been handling the chemical tert-Butyllithium without specific training and study of instructions provided by its manufacturer. He said the chemical is highly flammable if it comes in contact with oxygen.
Asked about Sangji's background, Langerman said, "She absolutely did not have sufficient skill, knowledge or training to be handling tert-Butyllithium."
He said the 23-year-old, who had a bachelor's degree in chemistry, never worked with the chemical until she came to UCLA. Equipment in the lab was inadequate and technicians were not provided with protective clothing, he said.
In addition, Sangji made errors in procedure, Langerman said, adding that the accident was predictable and preventable.
"When you ask an untrained person to deal with a high-risk task, something bad is going to happen," he said.It's interesting to note that Dr. Langerman has said from the beginning that a blast shield would be recommended in working with tert-butyllithium. This is a recommendation that almost certainly is not being followed in US academic chemistry laboratories. (One wonders about the cost/benefit of this recommendation -- is the extra protection worth the awkwardness?)
...And attending the hearing, our favorite
Outside court, Kevin Reed, an attorney for UCLA who is observing the case, said: "The fundamental thing is this was a terrible tragedy. Dr. Langerman's testimony has not done anything to convert what was a tragedy into a crime."(Mr. Reed failed to note that Dr. Langerman demolished his argument that Sheri Sangji was "an experienced and skilled chemist.") Lawyers -- you gotta love 'em.
UPDATE: The C&EN team has weighed in with its more detailed report on Day 3, based on Dr. Langerman's testimony. New facts/facets of the case:\
The Harran defense team objected to not questioning Dr. Langerman's experience in investigating past laboratory accidents; the judge ruled that the defense will be able to cross-examine him on this issue.(See C&EN's Michael Torrice in the comments on this issue.)
- Dr. Langerman testified that Ms. Sangji performed titrations of the tBuLi before the fatal reaction.
- Dr. Langerman noted that the plunger problem likely happened after Ms. Sangji had successfully transferred the first portion of tBuLi.