Chemist Duecker ends testimony after wading through more memos
Defense attorneys David Krakoff and Carolyn Kubota finished the cross examination of Duecker, a former research chemist who did work for Grace, asking him questions about various studies, letters and memos. Duecker, a quiet man in his late 70s, tried to do his best when asked to recognize many documents written over 30 years ago.
Much of Krakoff’s questioning was centered on the studies done by William Smith, an independent scientist who conducted animal studies involving chemical exposure. Smith had conducted experiments on hamsters using different doses and different types of asbestos, depending on which company consulted him.
Smith wrote many letters to Duecker, telling him about the on-going results of the study using Libby tremolite, data he found from other studies and the fact that an asbestos conference would be held in 1977. The conference featured research on fibrous and particulate asbestos dust and resultant mortality and morbidity in workers. Smith had mentioned in his letter that tremolite was to be the primary mineral discussed. Krakoff pointed out that the Environmental Protetction Agency and Dr. Richard Lemen were listed as invited to the conference.
The defense brought out some evidence that didn’t seem to support their case, such as the fact that Smith had found mesothelioma in hamsters subjected to the Libby tremolite and that Smith was going to present his hamster study results at the asbestos conference but he didn’t think that he should include the data from the Grace study. The other study results, which were contracted by different companies, specifically R.T. Vanderbilt, were based upon hamsters receiving tremolite from other parts of the country and showed no tumors. But with the Libby tremolite, Smith had found a dose-related response, meaning that the greater the amount of tremolite, the greater the chance of tumors appearing.
The 1978 draft and final reports Smith submitted to Duecker and Grace showed that two years after the start of the study, hamsters in both of experimental groups (50 percent tremolite and 100 percent tremolite injections), developed mesothelioma at the same rate. Five out of approximately 25 hamsters developed the cancer of the mesothelia. All the animals had fibrous lesions when dissected. But Krakoff pointed out that Smith, in his comments, said that injecting tremolite directly into the lung tissue is not the same as inhaling fibers and cautioned against drawing a correlation to response in humans.
Kubota brought up the point that it was policy in Grace to carbon copy people who might be interested in a memo, whether or not they were directly involved. So she asked Duecker if he had read every memo that he had been sent, and he said he had not. Wolter had been cc’d on many of the same memos. Kubota then changed direction and focused on memos and letters that were sent to Duecker that tended to show how much Wolter was trying to work to improve the conditions in Libby with respect to the dust.
Finally as her coup de grace, she asked Duecker, “Back when you were in charge of research, you never thought you were in the middle of a criminal conspiracy, did you?” Duecker chuckled and answered, “No.”
Prosecutor Cassidy, who had been quiet during the defense’s questioning, stepped again to the lectern. He had Duecker describe the function of the wet mill in Libby and pointed out that it was opened in 1973. Duecker said that they knew there was a dust problem in the dry mill, which is why they built the wet mill that was supposed to alleviate the dust. Cassidy pointed out that Grace had contracted the hamster study in 1976, after the wet mill had been opened.
Then Cassidy tried to ask Duecker, “Since you were studying tremolite after the wet mill opened, was that because the wet mill hadn’t solved the problem?” This brought all the defense attorneys to their feet with various objections, which Molloy sustained. The defense chorus arose again when Cassidy tried to ask Duecker if he thought it would have helped everyone’s understanding if Grace’s hamster results had been included in Smith’s findings, but this time Molloy allowed the question.
Duecker said that he didn’t know what ended up happening with Smith’s findings, either internally in Grace or if they were published elsewhere so he couldn’t speak to that. Duecker had not attended that 1977 asbestos conference. Finally, Cassidy asked, “Do you know why Smith didn’t want to include the Grace results in his report?” Duecker answered, “No.”
Duecker was finally told he could step down but remained in the witness box while the jury filed out. He seemed somewhat uncertain about when he could move, and finally Molloy joked, “You can leave. Get out of here while you can.”
Once Duecker had made his escape, Molloy sternly addressed the attorneys about questioning witnesses. He referred to Rule 602, which says a witness cannot testify to a matter unless there is admitted evidence and the witness knows something about the evidence. Many times, Duecker had looked at yet another memo and said, “I don’t remember this.” Molloy said it made the testimony less than compelling and wasted time.
Finally the prosecution had submitted evidence four years ago that included some handwritten notes. The defense objected to the notes, saying they didn’t know who had written them. The prosecution said they had been included in the documents handed over by Grace so they assumed someone in Grace had written them. Molloy admitted the accompanying typed documents but told the prosecution the handwritten documents would not be allowed unless they could prove who wrote them. With that, court was dismissed until 1:15.
– Laura L. Lundquist (posted 2:15 p.m.)