's crack staff (Drs. Jyllian Kemsley and Michael Torrice), the latest tweet on the legal proceedings
with Professor Patrick Harran on the lab accident and subsequent death of Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji:
Harran court agreemnt requires comm svc & fine, met=charges drop in 5y, not met=trial
I don't think anyone thought that there would be a trial, and here we are. Details as they break.
UPDATE: The details
from the Los Angeles Times'
Kim Christensen, who's been on this case from the beginning:
...Harran, charged with four felony counts of willfully violating state occupational health and safety standards, had faced up to 4-1/2 years in prison if convicted.
Instead, under an agreement approved by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge George Lomeli, Harran, 44, was ordered to pay $10,000 to the Grossman Burn Center and to perform 800 hours of community service....
$10,000? That seems kind of low, but I don't know what California law is for that.
I realize that this doesn't provide any resolution to the question, "In the state of California, is the PI or the institution an employer of lab workers, for the purposes of labor law?" That's too bad. If the law changed to place the criminal/civil onus on the PI, I think academic laboratory safety would change for the better (with a raft of negative unintended consequences, of course.)
UPDATE 3: UCLA's statement, including that of Professor Harran:
..."No words can express the sympathy I have for Sheri’s loved ones. As a father myself, I cannot imagine the pain they have and will continue to endure," Harran told the court. "What happened to Sheri in my laboratory was absolutely horrible — and she was too young, too talented and had too bright a future for anyone to accept it … I can only hope that, if not today, perhaps someday they can accept my deepest condolences and sympathies for their loss."
Under the terms of the agreement, Harran will perform 800 hours of community service to UCLA Health Sciences over the next five years. He will also speak to incoming UCLA students majoring in chemistry or biological sciences about the importance of lab safety and will design and teach an organic chemistry preparatory course each summer for the South Central Scholars, a volunteer organization that works to motivate inner-city high school students to attend college...
Interesting how this reflects some of what Janet Stemwedel suggested a while back.
UPDATE 4: Here's a copy of the legal agreement.
Two lines that I find telling:
1. For purposes of this Deferred Prosecution Agreement only, Defendant Harran acknowledges and accepts responsibility for the conditions under which the laboratory was operated on December 29, 2008, as set forth above.
2. Neither Defendant Harran, nor any of his counsel or representatives, will make any public statement denying responsibility for the conditions under which the laboratory was operated on December 29, 2008.
Also, the South Central Scholars commitment is pretty bulky.
I should note my condolences to the friends and family of Sheri Sangji -- this must be a really hard day/week for them.
From the Toronto Star, comment from the Sangji family:
Sangji’s family was deeply disappointed with the deal.
“We do appreciate that he’s serving some punishment, but it doesn’t go far enough,” Naveen Sangji, Sheri’s sister, told the Star after leaving the courtroom. The judge doubled Harran’s community service hours at the family’s request, she said.
In court, Sangji said that “this settlement, like the previous one with UCLA, is barely a slap on the wrist for the responsible individual . . . We do not understand how this man is allowed to continue running a laboratory, and supervising students and researchers. We can only hope that other young individuals are better protected in the future.”
UPDATE 7: Via Beryl Lieff Benderly at Science Careers
, the official statement from the Sangji family:
Sangji’s family isn’t happy with the settlement. “Our family has been devastated by the loss of a daughter and a sister,” they said in a statement. “We are extremely disappointed that the Los Angeles District Attorney chose to settle this case rather than pursue a trial and seek justice for Sheri. … We do not understand how this man is allowed to continue running a laboratory, and supervising students and researchers.”
UPDATE 8: Here's C&EN's full story on the case,
including this section:
Before the judge ruled on the agreement today, he allowed Sangji’s family and friends, including her sister Naveen, to speak. Naveen spoke about her sister’s life, her aspirations, what she meant to those who know her, and the deep pain caused by her death. She asked the judge to reject the agreement and proceed to trial because she and her family feel the agreement terms were inadequate punishment for Harran. Deputy District Attorney Hum said after the hearing that he understands the family’s position, but defended the agreement, calling it a fair resolution given the circumstances of the case.
Here's the full written statement
from the Sangji family (written by Naveen.)
UPDATE 9: Here's Jyllian Kemsley's timeline/article round-up.