The University of California, Los Angeles, and chemistry professor Patrick Harran were scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon on felony charges for violating California labor laws, but the court proceeding has once again been postponed. The charges stem from the death of researcher Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji three years ago after a fire in Harran’s lab. Arraignment is now scheduled for June 7, reports C&EN SCENE editor Michael Torrice.
As in past hearings, the delay came at the request of the defense. Torrice adds that the judge indicated that this delay would be the last. Arraignment was already put off three times for the university and twice for Harran.
Sangji’s sister, Naveen Sangji, attended the hearing today and says that a preliminary plea deal was offered to the defendants on Monday. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said in recent opinions that plea bargains are now so central to the justice system that “criminal justice today is for the most part a system of pleas, not a system of trials,” adding that “ninety-seven percent of federal convictions and ninety-four percent of state convictions are the result of guilty pleas” (federal statistics source, state statistics source, via NPR).
ETA: The Los Angeles Time story from today’s hearing says that “Judge Shelly Torrealba ordered professor Patrick Harran and lawyers for the regents back into court June 7, effectively setting a deadline for them to reach a plea agreement with prosecutors.” Here are the judge’s exact words, per C&EN’s Torrice:
My understanding is the request at this time of the parties is to continue the arraignment one last time, as I understand it, to June 7. We will then proceed with arraignment at that time. Is that the request of the parties?