A Los Angeles County judge today delayed a hearing to present evidence in the case against University of California, Los Angeles, chemistry professor Patrick Harran for felony labor code violations, reports C&EN’s Michael Torrice. The judge scheduled a new court date for Nov. 16. The charges relate to the 2009 death of researcher Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangi from injuries sustained in a fire in Harran’s laboratory. A Los Angeles county court arraigned Harran last month, entering a not guilty plea over his attorney’s objection.
During the short proceeding today, the judge and attorneys dealt with some defense requests for documents, Torrice says. The district attorney agreed to provide documents from Pomona College, where Sangji received her bachelor’s degree, and Norac Pharma, where Sangji worked briefly between graduating from Pomona and starting work at UCLA. The district attorney objected to requests for documents from the California Division of Occupational Safety & Health (Cal/OSHA), which investigated Sangji’s death and fined the university; the California Department of Consumer Affairs, which issues private investigator licenses; and Southwestern Law School. The judge said that the objections would be ruled on later and didn’t mention the nature of the requested documents, Torrice says. The defense has previously questioned the credibility of Cal/OSHA investigator Brian Baudendistel, alleging that as a juvenile he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and misrepresented his criminal record on applications for his Cal/OSHA job, firearms permit, and private investigator license.
The district attorney in July dropped similar charges against the University of California Regents in exchange for a settlement in which the Regents agreed to accept responsibility for the laboratory conditions, maintain a laboratory safety program in chemistry and/or biochemistry departments at all UC campuses, and establish an environmental law scholarship in Sangji’s name at UC Berkeley.