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National DUI College’s Serious Science Seminar an exceptional educational event for lawyers, combining science and advocacy

With an increase in OUI drugs arrests in Massachusetts, Massachusetts OUI Lawyers can expect to see an increase in OUI drugs arrests.  In serious case, there is likely to be forensic testing of blood for drugs.  In OUI alcohol cases, typically a suspect will be asked to take a breath test.  In case involving, injuries to the operator believe to be under the influence, forensic testing of the blood may be requested in cases involving serious bodily injury or death.  Recently, I attended a seminar called Serious Science sponsored by the National College of DUI Defense.  This seminar featured a first hand view of the Science with a visit to the University of Texas Lab at its Arlington campus.  This was an excellent event run by a Andrew Mischlove, Joe St. Louis and Virginia Landry, lawyers I have known for many years. They were assisted by two other outstanding lawyers who work with the Gerry Spence Trial College Kimberly Benjamin from Missouri and Franciso Durate from Washington State.  

Gas Chromatography separates the elements of a compound for analysis by a forensic scientist.  What happens is the machine takes an element and transforms it into the gas phase for analysis.  The machine then determines what type of substance is being analyzed by the retention time. As part of our work in the lab, we created standards; these standards are used so that there is a known solution that is put into the machine that comes out at a specific time.  The unknown standard is then compared to the known standard that are prepared in the laboratory.

Liquid Chromatography is also another type of separation analysis where the compounds are turned into a liquid instead of a gas.  Liquid Chromatography allows for greater depth of analysis as some compounds cannot be transformed into a gas phase; the use of liquid chromatography is the most accurate way to detect drugs in the blood steam.

One of the important points to understand about gas chromatography of a blood sample is that it is an indirect measurement.  The machine will convert the substance into a gas and separate the different type of molecules.  Based on this separation process, a chromatography will come out of the machine revealing the ethanol level in the blood sample.

Hand on in the University of Texas Lab

Part of our day at the lab was to see how the scientist prepares a blood sample for testing.  Our group created 18 different samples.  We saw the difficult job of the technician having to prepare hundreds of samples.  There are many mistakes along the way that can occur.  The PHD students at the lab monitored our creation of the samples.  One of the challenges in the lab is be carefully in pipetting, blood and controls from one sample to the next.  The scientist is required to change the tip on the pipette for each sample to avoid contamination.  Further, if the chemical is released too quickly into the tube, bubbles can form, impacting the reliability of the results.  Finally, it was revealed that material can get trapped in the pipette causes issues with reliability.

Combining Advocacy and Science in one conference

The seminar was divided into advocacy portion and a science portion. The science portion was very complex.  The seminar was practical in teaching some useful ways to teach jurors complex concepts.

One of the things that was suggested is to speak to the jury during cross examination.  The idea is that the question is what is important and we are conveying our theory of the case through the questions we ask.  The attention on cross examination should be on us; by looking at the jury during cross examination, we keep ourselves as the center of attention.  The witness and the responses are less important.  

Another thing that I was reminded of is to be present with the jury during each statement and moment of the case. I have had to do the hand holding exercises before to stay engaged with the person you are speaking to. This is easier to do when the material is familiar.  When the material becomes more complex, it makes it more challenging to maintain these connections.  When in trial, I think about these exercises that I have done over the years to stay sharp and prepared for trial. Fortunately, my trial schedule is very active, so it is not uncommon for me to have five or six trials per month.

Another aspect of the seminar was on how to do an effective voir dire.  While the voir dire rules are new in Massachusetts, we may be able to have panel voir dire in district court by requesting it.  The idea behind the voir dire process is to connect and relate to the jury rather than selling or explaining. You want to be listening, and having the jury reveal there ideas during the process.  

I would highly recommend the Serious Science Seminar.  I attend at least two National Law Related seminars per year.  This year it will be four.  Typically I attend many National College of DUI Defense Events; I plan to attend their Harvard Seminar and have already attended the Winter Session and a small group training on Drug Recognition Experts.

I am luck to be hosting a seminar with a good friend and exception lawyer and trial consultant Jeff Chapdelaine on July 13th in South Boston.  The seminar is the second annual free education event that we sponsor at DelSignore Law on trial advocacy.

Jeff teaches at the Gerry Spence Trial College.  I plan to attend a Gerry Spence event in 2019; I had known Attorney Durate from other conference but was the first time learning from Attorney Benjamin, also a Gerry Spence instructor, who was extremely dynamic and engaging whenever she presented.  I highly recommend the Serious Science Seminar sponsored by the National College of DUI Defense.


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