Saturday, June 4, 2011

Case Study: State v. Jascalevich

Dr. Mario Jascalevich was accused of murdering a number of his patients by administering lethal dose of curare.  Thus the detection of curare from embalmed and interred human bodies  turned out to be determining in the trial.  (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mario_Jascalevich)
In 1976, the New York State medical examinor claimed that curare was detected in 5 bodies. Dr. Jascalvech was indicated of murders.
A little more than a year later, both defense and state experts tried to settle the question of detection of curare in human body with the wide application of new methods, including radioimmunoassay, high-performance liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry.
Because it was the first time that these analytical methods used in human issue, the judge ruled a hearing that the analytical evidence was admmissible.
The result was that curare was "possible" detected in the human tissue.  All these techniques gave indication but not absolute conclusion of the trace of curare, even though if scientist got similar result in research , they would put in the paper without doubt.
. But in this case, the court would not verdict of guilty by a possible positive lab report.
Finally, Dr. Mario Jascalevich was free.

It was a little pity that we don't know the truth. It was still a mystery.
While I was reading the case, I was wondering that curare, as a poison was very little known about its metobolism and degradation in human tissue. Even if no trace of curare was found, but it may change to another compound in the body. That would be a toxiological issue.
The nature of the techniques would not give a yes or no answer. Judges may have their personal bias towards them, which would affect the verdict. What can we do about it?

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