Julie Yang’s testimony wraps up
Court reconvened following the afternoon recess with defense attorney David Krakoff continuing his cross-examination of Julie Yang. Krakoff inquired into a shortcoming of the method Yang used to analyze tremolite concentration. Yang testified that due to the “shelf-like” shape of vermiculite, when it stands on edge it can look just like tremolite, even under a microscope. Her lab team applied a NIOSH rule: anything with a length to width ratio of 3 to 1 and an overall length of over 5 microns is to be counted as an tremolite fiber. So, if a vermiculite plate is more than 3 times as long as it is wide, and standing on edge it could easily be incorrectly counted as an tremolite fiber. For these reasons, Yang sent one of her best counters to Libby to train them how to properly assess tremolite concentration.
Krakoff referred Yang to government exhibit 30A, already in evidence, photos taken as part of Yang’s study on tremolite size distribution. The photos were taken by an outside laboratory with an electron microscope capable of much greater magnification than Yang had available at her laboratory. She explained that these photos were able to distinguish between vermiculite and tremolite with much greater precision than standard light microscopes. These more precise readings were measured against traditional fiber counts to ensure accuracy.
Defense exhibit 5956 was admitted over objection under Rule 611, which grants the court discretion in admitting evidence beyond the scope of direct examination if it may aid in ascertaining the truth. The exhibit, a memo written by Yang, said that Libby vermiculite samples were counted in her Cambridge lab and that the Libby lab came up with consistently higher tremolite counts, sometimes twice as high. Again, the point being that determining tremolite concentration through microscopy was very difficult and has a high error rate.
Krakoff ended his cross-examination at 4:00, and Carolyn Kubota began her cross-examination of Yang. Judge Molloy instructed Kubota, “Don’t plow ground that has already been plowed.”
Kubota elicited testimony regarding her client, Jack Wolter’s attempts to reduce tremolite levels in the vermiculite mining and expanding operations in Libby. Yang stated that she was involved in data analysis linked with these attempts, which were successful to a degree. Yang’s testimony got away from Kubota on one point, however, when she testified in regard to selective mining efforts, “[Libby vermiculite] still contained some tremolite because it is economical to not avoid it completely.”
Yang also testified that she never thought she was in the midst of a criminal conspiracy or that Wolter was involved in Criminal conduct.
The day ended with prosecutor Kris McLean’s redirect examination of Yang. Early in his redirect, McLean snapped at Yang for not speaking into the microphone. As it turned out, she was only reading an exhibit to herself. His curt demeanor continued for the rest of redirect. Much of his questioning was successfully objected to as either expert opinion testimony or beyond the scope of cross-examination. McLean did manage to elicit that while Yang felt a study of the effects of Libby vermiculite on hamsters should have been published, this was not done because management thought it would be costly and might not produce positive results.
-Bert Certain (posted 10:00 p.m.)
Posted: March 19th, 2009 under Law.