cross examination of arlington police department forensic division laboratory blood draw jury trial driving while intoxicated jury trial

By November 10, 2016 No Comments

CROSS-EXAMINATION
BY DEFENSE COUNSEL:
Q. Ms. Bills, hi. I’m Defense Counsel. I’ve got a few questions, okay?
A. Uh-huh.
Q. So you’re in Austin now?
A. Correct.
Q. And you do not work for a lab?
A. Technically I am part of like the APD Department, but we do work within the forensic division laboratory.
Q. Now, you work in the crime scene section of the Austin Police Department?
A. Correct.
Q. So you’re no longer in just a lab like you were when you were at IFL?
A. Correct.
Q. And when you came to IFL, I think you worked there one year and one month; is that correct?
A. Correct.
Q. And that would’ve been starting in June of 2014.
A. June, correct.
Q. And you left in July of 2015?
A. Correct.
Q. And you tested Robert’s blood in July of — allegedly Robert’s blood — in July of 2015. I mean, excuse me, June of 2015; is that correct?
A. Yes.
Q. So when you went to work for IFL, was that your first lab to work at?
A. No.
Q. You had worked at a different lab?
A. I worked for the public health lab in Austin briefly.
Q. Okay. So you came from Austin to Bedford?
A. Correct.
Q. And then you went back to Austin?
A. Correct.
Q. And when you worked for public health, you didn’t do blood alcohol testing, did you?
A. No, I did not.
Q. And you’re not doing blood alcohol testing now?
A. No, I’m not.
Q. So basically you only did that at the Bedford lab of IFL?
A. Correct.
Q. And you had to get trained at Bedford in order to do that?
A. Correct.
Q. And I believe that the prosecutor used the word snag. That IFL has had some snags or a snag or the word snag.
A. Correct.
Q. Do you remember that?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. Well, let’s talk about that snag for a minute.
A. Okay.
Q. You’re aware of an analyst named Cherrie Lemon that was fired?
A. I am aware of Cherrie.
Q. And do you think it’s a snag for an analyst to switch vials?
A. No, I do not think it’s a snag.
Q. That’s a lot bigger than a snag?
A. Yes.
Q. Do you think it’s a snag for an analyst to leave a bottle of acetone in the lab that could contaminate all the blood that’s being tested?
A. No.
Q. And so that’s a lot bigger than a snag, isn’t it?
A. Yes, ma’am.
Q. And Cherrie Lemon did that, didn’t she?
A. I honestly — I don’t know.
Q. That’s fair enough.
A. Well, I don’t know. Like she was fired before I got there and the circumstances of her firing were —
Q. Pretty well known within IFL, isn’t it? In fact, Cherrie got fired and that’s how you got the job, right? She’s leaving and you were coming on?
A. Well, I think I was kind of replacing Aubrey.
Q. Aubrey, who got fired?
A. Yes.
Q. So Cherrie got fired, Aubrey got fired, Elizabeth Feller got fired and you saw the handwriting on the wall so you went on back home to Austin?
A. Well, I was lonely and missed my family. But, yes.
Q. But IFL really wasn’t like great for your resume considering all those firings, right?
A. That’s fair to say, yes.
Q. That’s fair. In fact, the San Antonio Police Department in Bexar County stopped sending any business to IFL whatsoever due to Cherrie Lemon screwing up hundreds of cases?
A. Correct.
Q. And so they lost confidence in IFL, would that be fair to say?
MS. THERIOT: Objection, Your Honor, to speculation. She has no idea why —
THE COURT: Well, she can answer it if she knows.
Q. (BY DEFENSE COUNSEL) All this was pretty well known within the lab, wasn’t it?
A. Yes.
Q. And so IFL was a for-profit lab, correct?
A. Yes.
Q. Not a governmental entity?
A. No.
Q. Not paid for by tax dollars?
A. No.
Q. They’re trying to make money, right?
A. Sure, yes.
Q. And so police departments would hire them to test their evidence?
A. Yes.
Q. And the loss of revenue from San Antonio was a pretty big hit, wasn’t it?
A. Yes.
Q. Now, Aubrey was fired and I think Elizabeth was fired as well, correct?
A. Correct.
Q. And some of that was for the lack of honesty. Let’s be honest about that, true?
A. The firing of Liz, again, it was specifically — I was not given the details of Liz’s firing, only that the DA’s were no longer going to use her as an expert witness.
Q. Wouldn’t even sponsor her on the witness stand?
A. Correct.
Q. And that had to do, you think, with her truthfulness or do you not know?
A. I honestly don’t know.
Q. That’s fine. Let’s move along.
And so let’s kind of go back to your time at the lab.
A. Okay.
Q. By the way, I will just —
DEFENSE COUNSEL: May I approach the Elmo there, Your Honor?
THE COURT: Yes.
Q. (BY DEFENSE COUNSEL) The exhibit that the prosecutor showed you here, there we go. And if you need me to take it off of this and bring it up there, I will.
But what is the date I’m pointing at right there on State’s Exhibit No. 8? State’s Exhibit No. 8 and then the date that I’m pointing at right here? If I need to bring it to you, I can.
A. I believe it’s April 29.
Q. All right. So that would be the date that you received, or that IFL received the blood evidence at your lab?
A. Correct.
Q. Do you have any idea where the blood had been before that?
A. No.
Q. Do you know — if I represented to you that it was collected at 1:30 something in the morning on the 25thof April, do you have any idea from that time until the 29th where it had been?
A. No. I could only speak to when it arrived in our lab based on our chain of custody.
Q. And then it shows that you checked it out there on the 29th — excuse me, on the 1st.
A. Correct.
Q. Let me turn my little clicker on for a second. On June 1st at 0710. That’s ten minutes after seven a.m.
A. Correct.
Q. That’s when you took it out of the refrigerator?
A. Correct.
Q. And you put it back in the refrigerator at 19 minutes after 10.
A. Correct.
Q. So you had it out from 7 in the morning until 10 in the morning?
A. Correct.
Q. Right?
A. Correct.
Q. Now, let’s just talk about, for a minute, how many other blood vials were kept in the refrigerator. How big is the fridge?
A. A standard refrigerator. R01, typical what you would find in a home.
Q. And on any given day, how many blood vials are in that refrigerator?
A. How many blood vials? I mean there could be like possibly a hundred, depending on — I mean, the packaging. The way this one is, it’s slender. We would have slots. So something slim like that, we’d be able to fit more pieces of evidence versus a box. So I’d say maybe 100 vials.
Q. Probably 100 vials. So y’all get blood vials from Grapevine Police Department?
A. Yes.
Q. And what other police departments back at that period of time, June 1st of 2015?
A. Grapevine, Grand Prairie, Southlake, Haltom City, Bedford, Euless, Hurst, Arlington, Pasadena PD from Harris County.
Q. So several police departments?
A. Yes.
Q. And they were all blood vials?
A. They were all blood vials in their packaging.
Q. And the packaging, is it different from police department to police department?
A. Yes.
Q. And so all of Grapevine Police Department was the same?
A. Yes.
Q. And was it any different from any other police department?
A. Yes. So that packaging was actually bought from IFL. Arlington provided their own packaging and theirs were about a box about this small and it held stuff. I think Keller — we also did Keller. And they would use packaging from DPS. And that was a much larger box.
Q. So IFL actually sold the packaging to Grapevine?
A. In that case, yes.
Q. Did y’all sell the packaging to any other police department?
A. Yes. Bedford, Hurst, I believe Southlake. A fair majority of the ones that sent us the blood, we’d use their packaging, yes.
Q. So when you look in the fridge, most of the packaging looks like that?
A. Yes.
Q. And then some police departments are a little different?
A. Yes.
Q. But all and all, there’s 100 packages —
A. Yeah.
Q. — in the fridge?
Just like you didn’t know where the blood had been before it arrived at IFL, do you have any personal knowledge about the conditions in which this blood was collected?
A. No.
Q. You don’t know if one nurse collected it or if two nurses collected it?
A. No, I do not.
Q. You don’t know if two nurses collected it, whether they had rewiped the arm or didn’t?
A. No, I do not.
Q. You don’t know anything about that?
A. I do not.
Q. You don’t know whether it was wiped in what we call concentric circles or just wiped back and forth?
A. Correct.
Q. If you wipe back and forth, you just spread the germ.
A. Right.
Q. You don’t know if the person who gave the blood had Candida albicans —
A. Correct.
Q. — on his skin?
A. Correct.
Q. By the way, do you know what Candida albicans is?
A. I believe it’s a yeast, right? I’m sorry. I’m A little rusty.
Q. No, no. It’s yeast. And yeast in blood can ferment, can’t it?
A. Yes.
Q. And yeast in blood that ferments can take a small amount of alcohol and make it a much greater concentration; is that right, than what was originally put in there?
A. Yes, it’s possible.
Q. So if the blood had a small amount of alcohol but had yeast albicans in it, it would grow and grow and grow and the alcohol concentration would be significantly greater at the time it’s tested?
A. Correct.
Q. And that would not have been the case at the time that it was drawn out of the person’s body?
A. Correct.
Q. You have no idea if the blood you tested had Candida albicans in it, do you?
A. No, I do not.
Q. In fact, the gas chromatograph doesn’t test for that, does it?
A. No, it does not.
Q. And do you know whether or not sort of what some of the common sources for producing Candida albicans in a person’s body are?
A. I personally do not know.
Q. I mean, just like yeast infections? Toenail fungus?
A. Yeah.
Q. Do you know whether or not — well, I doubt Robert had a yeast infection.
Do you know whether or not Robert had a toenail fungus?
A. I do not know.
Q. Sinus infection?
A. I do not know.
Q. And you didn’t test it to see if any of that was there?
A. No, that is not something we —
Q. It cannot be seen with the naked eye, can it?
A. No, it cannot.
Q. Now, you don’t know if that blood before it got to you had been hot?
A. No, I do not.
Q. You don’t know if it had been cold? You don’t know if it had been dropped?
A. No, can’t speak to the condition of it.
Q. You don’t know if it had been shaken?
A. No, I do not.
Q. The instructions in it say don’t shake it, right?
A. Well, after they draw it, they’re supposed to kind of invert to mix it and —
Q. But not shake it. It says do not shake it, right?
A. Yeah.
Q. And there can be, even though there is an anticoagulant in it, there can be little bitty blood clots —
A. Yes.
Q. — in blood?
A. Yes.
Q. Millions of them?
A. Yes.
Q. Right. And you can’t see those with the naked eye, either?
A. No.
Q. And the gas chromatograph doesn’t test for that either, does it?
A. No, it does not.
Q. And obviously if the gas chromatograph were to test a clot, it could be testing serum; is that right?
A. Well, the gas chromatograph doesn’t actually — like it doesn’t suck up the blood. It sucks up the headspace, the air inside.
Q. You’re absolutely right. The gas chromatograph doesn’t even test the blood, does it? Right?
A. Correct.
Q. Now, there are machines that actually do test the blood itself. It’s the liquid chromatograph, LC?
A. Uh-huh.
THE COURT: Is that yes, ma’am?
THE WITNESS: Yes, sorry. Yes.
Q. (BY DEFENSE COUNSEL) You don’t have a LC at the lab?
A. No, we do not.
Q. So nobody really ever tested the blood itself in this case?
A. Correct.
Q. Technically, right?
A. Technically, correct.
Q. Because you don’t have an LC machine?
A. Correct.
Q. You test the area above the blood?
A. Correct.
Q. That’s what you’re referring to when you call it headspace?
A. Yes.
Q. Show the jury with your fingers how much is testing. Can you?
A. No.
Q. You can’t. It’s so miniscule, right?
A. Correct.
Q. It’s the air above the blood that you’re testing?
A. Yes.
Q. And let’s talk about what it looks like. When you took the blood out of the refrigerator at 7 o’clock in the morning, why did you need to keep it out for several hours?
A. We let it gradually on its own come to room temperature in order to test the blood. So if I had tested it and it was cold, that would possibly have affected the result. And also potentially the liability to get 500 milliliters (sic) of the blood into the headspace vial. So we allow it to come to room temperature.
Q. And what are you doing while the blood is coming to room temperature?
A. I’m checking the — doing the daily check of my pipettes. Every day, since we were hand pipetting, I would hand pipette water, 500 milliliters of water and put that on a scale to make sure that the pipette was correctly picking and dispensing the correct amount of liquid. So kind of stuff like that.
Once I put it out, the evidence is sealed. So at 7 o’clock, even though I’m not actually cutting open the evidence and beginning testing, I am kind of going through my check of what I said when I would double-check with the chain of custody against the evidence. So kind of stuff like that getting, double-checking.
And at that point so that when the blood was at room temperature, I could proceed.
Q. And when you pulled that blood, that blood being the one that you’ve just testified, out of the refrigerator, that’s not the only blood that you took out, is it?
A. No.
Q. How many other people’s blood did you remove from the refrigerator at the same time you removed that particular exhibit?
A. I pulled out 11.
Q. Eleven other people?
A. Yes.
Q. So you pulled out 11 other people and in those particular envelopes are also two vials?
A. Yes.
Q. So now if you have 11 packages with two vials each in them, how many vials — I’m not trying to do trick math — but how many vials of blood do you have laying there?
A. Well, in total I had 24 for all 12 cases, two vials each.
Q. So you had 24 vials of blood laying there?
A. Correct.
Q. And so you remove all 24 from each of their respective packages?
A. No.
Q. You remove one from each of their respective packages?
A. No. Even like while they’re sitting there at room temperature, they are still in their sealed envelopes. They are sitting in like — the chain of custodies are in manila folders, so they’re separate. I usually organize them by their case number, which has been handwritten on by the evidence specialist when she receives the blood. She gives it a unique lab number.
So we organize, I organize the lab case files by the lab number and then I organize the evidence by lab numbers. So they are not just strown around on the counter. Like they’re in a sequence to match their chain of custody. And they’re all secured still in their sealed envelopes.
Now, when I’m sampling blood —
Q. Well, you’re getting into a narrative. We’re going to get to that, okay?
A. Okay.
Q. So I’m just trying to see what you’re doing. You’ve got these packages laying out there?
A. Correct.
Q. And you’re going to remove one vial from each of the packages, correct?
A. Correct.
Q. And then you’re going to pipette, as you call it, in other words withdraw a little bit of blood, from each of those vials that you’ve got laying out there and you’re going to transfer that over into little glass vials, correct?
A. Correct.
Q. And the little glass vials that you’re going to transfer them all into, what do they look like?
A. They’re clear, they’re circular.
Q. Have they been used in another case?
A. No. They have never been used. We pull them fresh out of their packaging.
Q. You don’t know how they were cleaned?
A. From their manufacturer, no.
Q. But it’s a fresh vial?
A. Correct.
DEFENSE COUNSEL: And may I approach, Your Honor?
THE COURT: Yes.
Q. For demonstrative purposes, not saying these are your glass vials, but for demonstrative purposes does that kind of accurately represent what they look like?
A. Yes.
Q. Let me just show you what we just marked as Defendant’s Exhibit No. 1 that you just said — I’m not saying these are the vials at your lab.
A. Yes.
Q. But does this look like the vials?
A. Correct.
Q. It’s fair and accurate?
A. Yes.
DEFENSE COUNSEL: I will offer for demonstrative purposes, Your Honor, tender to the prosecutor.
MS. THERIOT: No objection.
THE COURT: All right. D1 is admitted for demonstrative purposes.
DEFENSE COUNSEL: May I publish, Your Honor?
THE COURT: Yes.
DEFENSE COUNSEL: Well, may I publish by walking and then put it on the Elmo?
THE COURT: Sure.
Q. (BY DEFENSE COUNSEL) So you say the little glass vials are all the exact same size?
A. Yes.
Q. And they’re all the exact same shape?
A. Yes.
Q. And they’re all clear?
A. Yes.
Q. And you’re going to pipette out 11 other people’s blood into the glass vials?
A. Correct.
Q. And you’re going to use two glass vials apiece?
A. Yes.
Q. So you would pipette out from one tube of blood into two glass vials?
A. Yes.
Q. And that kind of represents what they all look like?
A. Yes.
Q. And let’s talk about pipetting. That’s just like a little suction tube, right?
A. Yes.
Q. And you stick it in the tube of blood and suck up a little blood and then squirt it over into one of these little glass vials?
A. Correct.
Q. And then you do that with the next person’s tube and the next person’s tube and so forth and so on?
A. Correct.
Q. Right? Okay.
And then if I’m understanding this correctly, when you stick the pipette into the tube of blood, do you actually touch the blood with the pipette?
A. The tip actually gets into the blood, not the whole — so like the tip, the disposable tip that I put on to the edge of it, that actually touches the blood. The pipette doesn’t because we don’t want to — like the part — the pipette works by the little suction air. And we don’t want blood to get up into that because it would mess up the pipette and essentially be useless. So the tips go into the blood, but not —
Q. So when you take a tube of blood that the police department had provided, you pop the top. What color is the top supposed to be?
A. Gray.
Q. And, by the way, when you checked, could you tell whether or not in this particular case whether or not there had been any kind of expiration date on the vial?
A. I believe, yes. So we do check the expiration date on the vials and put the lot number.
Q. And did you indicate on some paperwork of yours that you could not determine the expiration date?
A. I’d have to see my worksheet. I do not specifically recall for this case. But, yes, if the label is covering the expiration date and/or the lot number, I write on my worksheet not visible.
DEFENSE COUNSEL: May I approach, Your Honor?
THE COURT: Sure.
Q. (BY DEFENSE COUNSEL) Let me show you what’s been marked as Defendant’s Exhibit No. 2 and ask you if that’s your worksheet?
A. Yes, this is.
Q. And you use a bunch of initials?
A. Yes.
Q. And NV is an initial that you use?
A. Yes. At the bottom there is a little key to kind of say what all the initials are.
Q. And does that worksheet help you refresh your memory about whether or not there was an expiration date that you could see on the blood vial?
A. According to my worksheet, it was not visible.
Q. So you indicated it was not visible?
A. I did.
Q. And so back to pipetting. You pop the gray top off of the tube of blood and you take your little pipette and you stick it down there and you withdraw blood and then you squirt it over into two vials?
A. Yes, ma’am.
Q. And then you do that for some other vials of blood —
A. Yes.
Q. — that you’re going to test? To be fair, you’re not just putting like Robert’s blood in two vials and sending it into the machine?
A. No.
Q. Right. You’re doing it in a batch with everybody else?
A. Yes.
Q. And so after you finished with his tube of blood and maybe you did — I think he was, what, vial number what? Do you remember what his vial number was?
A. I do not recall.
Q. If I told you it was vial number 26 and 27, would you disagree with me?
A. I would have no reason to because I don’t remember.
Q. And so how many total little vials of glass tubes do you have there in front of you that you’re pipetting blood over into?
A. Twenty-four.
Q. Okay. Twenty-four total?
A. Blood. The run consists of controls, which do not have blood in them.
Q. But how many total little glass vials are you sending through the gas chromatograph?
A. Casework and controls, it’s a total of 33, 34. Thirty-three or 34.
Q. So 33 or 34 identical glass vials is what’s going through the gas chromatograph, correct?
A. Correct.
Q. So after you load up all of the little glass vials, okay, with different people’s blood, then you put a lid on it?
A. Correct.
DEFENSE COUNSEL: May I approach, Your Honor?
THE COURT: Yes.
Q. Again, this is just for demonstrative purposes. I’m not saying this is what exactly it looks like in your lab. Just so we can kind of picture it.
Let me show you what we just marked as Defendant’s Exhibit No. 3. Would that be a fair and accurate representation of the lids that go on top of all the identical little vials?
A. It’s a little different lids. But, yeah, like the silver aluminum part.
Q. So it’s a pretty fair representation?
A. Yes.
DEFENSE COUNSEL: For demonstrative purposes I would offer Defendant’s Exhibit No. 3, Your Honor.
MS. THERIOT: No objection.
THE COURT: All right. D3 is admitted for demonstrative purposes.
DEFENSE COUNSEL: May I publish, Your Honor?
THE COURT: Yes.
Q. (BY DEFENSE COUNSEL) So all of the lids are identical?
A. Yes.
Q. And you put them on, what did you say, 33 or 34?
A. Yes.
Q. So there are 33 or 34 little glass vials all with identical lids on them?
A. Correct.
Q. And you put that in a tray; is that right?
A. Yes.
Q. You put them, you set them in a little tray that’s got a slot in them?
A. Our instrument had a carousel with slot numbers.
Q. Slots. That’s called an autosampler, isn’t it?
A. Yes, ma’am.
Q. And then you send it through the machine?
A. Correct.
Q. All of them at the same time. Oh, but before we get that, before you send them through the machine, do you write anything on the little glass vial?
A. Yes.
Q. So I bet you look at Robert’s tube of blood and then write his name on the little glass vial?
A. No.
Q. That’s no?
A. No.
Q. Okay. So then if you don’t write Robert’s name on the little glass vial, do you at least use the police offense report number —
A. No.
Q. — that ties to his name?
A. No.
Q. Okay. I’m going to be quiet and you tell me what number you put on there.
A. So when each piece of evidence comes into the lab, they are assigned a unique lab number. It is the lab number that I write on the blood vials.
Q. So it’s just a number that you write on it, like number one, number two, number three?
A. Well, it’s usually a four-digit number.
Q. And in Robert’s case —
DEFENSE COUNSEL: May I approach again, Your Honor?
THE COURT: Yes.
Q. — you assigned him a unique number?
A. Well, he was assigned. I didn’t assign it.
Q. And can you tell us what Robert’s number is?
A. 0746.
Q. 0746. That’s Robert’s number, 0746?
A. Yes.
Q. Actually, it’s longer than that, isn’t it?
A. Well, the whole — there is a eight-digit lab number. But, yes, I only put the last four.
Q. Well, why don’t you tell me what Robert’s whole number is.
A. 15040746.
Q. 15040746?
A. Yes, ma’am.
Q. That’s Robert’s whole number?
A. Correct.
Q. That’s his unique number. And then you write just the last four digits on the glass vial?
A. Yes, ma’am.
Q. And then you do that for the next person and the one before Robert and the one after Robert until you’ve done 32 or 33 vials?
A. Well, there would only be — again, since 12 cases, duplicate vials, so only 24.
Q. Of those vials?
A. Yes, would have —
Q. And then the other vials?
A. Yes.
Q. You don’t write any numbers on the other vials?
A. The only thing I write on them, like the blanks, I would just put a B for blank because it’s water. And C for control. So they get letters.
Q. And you’ve never transposed a number?
A. Pretty sure it’s possible that I have. I can’t recall a time or I’m like, yes, I did that.
Q. You’ve never mixed up a sample ever?
A. No, I don’t believe I’ve mixed up a sample.
Q. Now, do you write out the order in which you’re going to send them through the autosampler?
A. Yes.
Q. And what piece of paper do you do that on?
A. Type it into the computer next to the, that’s linked to the instrument.
Q. So you then take this information that you’ve got laid out and put it into a computer and put the order in which you’re sending it with the number that’s associated with it. And you flawlessly never made a mistake doing that?
A. I think I’ve transposed a number before.
Q. Now, when you were opening Robert’s vial, you were by yourself, right?
A. Yes.
Q. You don’t have anybody in the lab helping you and double-checking the paperwork and there’s not two of you working together?
A. No.
Q. You’re all by yourself?
A. Yes.
Q. Nobody is watching or double-checking?
A. Nobody is double-checking, but there was a security camera in the sampling room, so somebody could’ve been watching.
Q. But y’all are not set up where there’s two of you to go in there and check and double-check, so to speak?
A. No.
Q. Quality control, so to speak. It’s just you?
A. Yes, ma’am.
Q. So if you make a mistake, the only way we’re going to know you made a mistake is if you go wait, whoa, let me tell you, I made a mistake. We have to take your word for it?
A. Yes.
Q. Now, how do you know whether or not any kind of clotted blood was tested? I know it tests, it doesn’t test the blood itself because you don’t have an LC. But how do you know that it wasn’t testing the gas above a clotted piece of blood?
A. When the blood is very clotted, it’s very hard to pipette and actually sometimes the tip will try and suck up the blood clot and we may not be able to get a full sample. So at which point it’ll be documented on my worksheet that the blood was clotted.
Q. Yeah, but that’s for you said when it’s very clotted.
A. Yes.
Q. But when it’s not very clotted, to be fair, there are lots of little blood clots you can’t see with the naked eye and the gas chromatograph doesn’t catch that, right?
A. Correct.
Q. And so if that is in there, if that is what is inside that little glass tube, then that’s actually serum, isn’t it, instead of whole blood?
A. Correct.
Q. And that would have a higher concentration than what the whole blood would have, wouldn’t it, of alcohol?
A. I honestly don’t know.
Q. So you’re just assuming you tested whole blood?
A. Yes.
Q. But you would never really know, would you?
A. If it was clotted, I couldn’t see it with my eye, no. I wouldn’t know.
Q. Now, the pipette is handheld, isn’t it?
A. Yes.
Q. So it’s not the machine doing it?
A. No.
Q. It’s you taking it out of the tube and putting it into the glass. That’s handheld?
A. Correct.
Q. And has there ever been an issue with going past the stop point?
A. Yes, there’s been.
Q. How did you handle that? In other words, when I go past the stop point, where you drew up more of a sample than was needed?
A. Discarded the sample in the biohazard, got a new tip and resampled.
Q. And do you know whether you did that in this case?
A. I honestly do not recall.
Q. You don’t have any specific memory?
A. No, I do not.
Q. But who would know, right?
A. True.
Q. How would we know unless you told us, right? Because there is no QC —
A. Correct.
Q. — necessarily. We have to trust you, right?
A. Yes.
Q. And so you put some of Robert’s blood in the little smaller vial and you mix in Propanol?
A. Yes.
Q. You pipette in a certain amount, a known amount of n-Propanol?
A. Yes, that is from a automatic dispenser, though. I don’t pipette the —
Q. Okay. And then you add salt, don’t you?
A. No.
Q. You don’t add salt to yours?
A. No.
Q. Okay. Well, what if there’s a salting effect? Do you know what a salting effect is?
A. I think Dr. Stevens could better explain the salting effect to the jury.
Q. That’s beyond yours?
A. Yes.
Q. That’s fair enough. I will make a note to be sure to ask.
And so anyway, that’s when you crimp it and then send it through, right? You’ve got the lid on it, it’s crimped and you send it through?
A. Yes, ma’am.
Q. Now, how many times have you done this?
A. How many cases have I sampled?
Q. Uh-huh. Yes, ma’am.
A. A few thousand.
Q. A few thousand. Have you ever made a mistake?
A. Pretty sure that I have, yeah.
Q. Did you make a mistake in Robert’s case?
A. Not to my knowledge.
Q. Now, after you put the vials in the autosampler, that is, it’s going to now go through the gas chromatograph, another needle pierces each one of those vials, correct?
A. Yes.
Q. Would we be better off to ask somebody else about the workings of that piece of machinery than you or what?
A. Yeah, probably.
Q. But nevertheless, you do know enough about it to tell the jury that the blood itself is not tested?
A. Yes.
Q. So when we talk about a blood test, it’s not really a blood test, is it?
A. Yes.
Q. So what’s your biggest fear of the gas chromatograph? You worked in the lab for one year and one month. Have you thought about that? What would be any concern?
A. What do you mean by biggest fear?
Q. I mean, you said — I think you said earlier if something went wrong, the machine would quit, right?
A. Yes.
Q. But obviously if a blood vial was switched, if somebody else’s blood was put in the place of another person’s blood, the machine wouldn’t quit, it would still print out a result, wouldn’t it?
A. Yes.
Q. And if the pipette, if pipetting, if there was any cross-contamination done from one person’s blood, because you’re pulling some up and putting it in and you’re pulling up somebody else’s and putting it in, if there was any cross-contamination done, you would still get a result. The machine wouldn’t just break, right?
A. Yes, but we’d — like I said, we used — even in this case when taking the two duplicates, like the two samples, I use a fresh tip each time. So I’m not putting the same tip into each different vial of blood.
Q. That’s if it had touched down in there. But if you had sucked up some into the pipette itself and it transferred over, that would be cross-contamination.
A. But it wouldn’t transfer over into the — if blood got into the actual pipette past the tip, the pipette wouldn’t suck up blood because the air flow would be —
Q. Even a miniscule amount?
A. Pretty sure.
Q. And, Ms. Bills, have you ever made a mistake in not switching the tips from one person to another?
A. That I can honestly say no, I haven’t.
Q. You’ve been flawless in that regard?
A. Yes, I have.
Q. And as far as your technique in there — oh, by the way, were you trained at any point by Elizabeth Feller?
A. Yes, I was.
Q. And she’s, of course, one of the snags, as we’ve referred to it, at IFL, correct?
A. Correct.
Q. And she was someone who trained you —
A. Yes.
Q. — in how to do things accurately, right?
A. Yes.
Q. And the only way we know that you did it all absolutely accurately is to just trust you?
A. Well, no. Part of our daily checks, for instance the pipette, was doing the daily checks with the water. And there were actually daily logs to show where I measured it three times every day before use, so it’s actually documented.
Q. Yeah, I don’t want to put you off.
A. Okay. I’m just saying there is actual documentation of regarding the pipette to where —
Q. Okay. But there’s not any — the only way we know that you didn’t make a mistake is to take your word for it with respect to, that you wrote the right number on the right vial and you didn’t switch a vial, that you didn’t make any of those kind of mistakes?
A. Correct.
Q. Because there’s no QC other than your word?
A. Correct.
Q. All right. Let me just double-check.
You know that vial — I know you said you don’t really know what the storage conditions for the blood was before it got to IFL, right?
A. Correct.
Q. But it sat in your refrigerator — let me just be exact here. It sat in your refrigerator from April 29 all the way until June 1st.
A. Yes, ma’am.
Q. By the way, Elizabeth Feller was working there at that point, wasn’t she?
A. No, she was not. She was gone.
Q. Do you want to see her personnel file?
A. April? I thought she was gone in March.
Q. If I told you she was there in May, would you disagree with me?
A. I would have to say yes, because she physically wasn’t there. I didn’t see her.
Q. And you have independent memory of that?
A. Pretty sure. I took a trip to New Orleans in March. And while I was there she told me that she had been fired and she would no longer be there. And she was gone when I got back.
MR. DE LA CRUZ: Do you need water?
THE WITNESS: Yes, please. I do need some water.
Q. (BY DEFENSE COUNSEL) Well, so, in the meantime, the point I was going to make about the blood, from May 29 (sic) to June 1st, what took so long to get to it?
A. Actually at, I believe the start of April, the motor to the autosampler went out and we were not actually able to run samples for most of April.
So that didn’t get sampled until June because all the stuff that came before it had to get sampled first.
Q. So the machine was broken?
A. Yes.
Q. And what about the refrigerator? What was the temperature in there in April and in May?
A. I’m not sure. But we had like a temperature log. IFL has those temperature logs.
Q. That’s not something that’s part of your responsibilities?
A. Well, I would take the daily temperature onto the log, but I can’t recall the daily temperatures at this time.
Q. You don’t know if the refrigerator ever went out like the gas chromatograph went out, do you?
A. To my knowledge, it did not go out.
DEFENSE COUNSEL: I think I will pass the witness, Your Honor.

Francisco Hernandez

Author Francisco Hernandez

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