I don't plan on writing up a full review of the preliminary hearing until the first week of next year, when folks will have returned from winter breaks. But I will note a couple of really remarkable developments on Day 6. Cal/OSHA investigator Brian Baudendistel was questioned again by both the prosecution and the defense. The really illuminating questions, however, came from the defense's questioning of chemical safety expert Neal Langerman:
- The defense attempted to get Dr. Langerman to admit that Ms. Sangji demonstrated her ability meet Dr. Langerman's personal training standards to work with pyrophorics because she performed an experiment with Grubbs II catalyst in dichloromethane in a glovebag, and that Professor Harran watched her work and declared her technique "perfect."
- The defense suggested that Professor Harran's postdoctoral fellow was the key person who was supervising and training her, and that it was reasonable for Professor Harran to rely on the postdoc in her training.
Ru-based catalysts show little sensitivity to air, moisture or minor impurities in solvents.A variety of Google results tends to support the Myers position that Grubbs II is not particularly sensitive to air. Professor Doug Taber comes a little closer with his description that "Prolonged exposure to air and moisture deactivates the complex..." The couple of minutes that it would take to weigh out the complex and toss it into the flask doesn't count, I don't think.
What is ultimately more probative (and again, perhaps I am wrong) is that it would be difficult to immediately tell that air-sensitive technique with Grubbs II was either good or bad. Bad technique with tBuLi announces itself with a flame; bad technique with Grubbs catalyst might result in a mild color change and a poor yield.
Readers, am I nuts in thinking that this is a crazy comparison to make? The Sangji case is such a weird nexus between law and chemistry; God help us all if this makes it in front of a jury.