Despite an exculpatory crime lab toxicology result, I was convicted of a DUI (and other crimes dependent on the DUI) and sentenced to a lengthy prison term. This is the executive summary of a complaint that I will be filing with ASCLD/LAB (American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board) and the National Institute of Justice (A branch of US DOJ that funds these laboratories through Paul Coverdell grants), with copies to other authorities. The reference list is extensive, as is the body of the complaint. This is only a summary and introduction. This complaint has to do with improper testimony of a crime lab analyst, in a non-DNA toxicology case that resulted in conviction and sentence. I will share the link to the full body of the complaint, once it is completed.
This is a formal complaint, regarding the trial testimony of a Kentucky lab analyst, during a jury trial on January 22, 2008. The analyst was, and still is, employed at a lab that was at the time of the testimony, and still is, under your purview. The analyst’s name is Ryan Johnson. He works in the Toxicology section of the Central Forensic Laboratory, a division of the Kentucky State Police (KSP), in Frankfort, KY. The Kentucky State Police and its labs are a division of the Kentucky government known as the Justice and Public Safety Department. Mr. Johnson is the current supervisor for the Toxicology division of this lab, although in 2008 when he testified, I do not believe he was a supervisor. The lab Director is Ms.Laura Sudkamp.
Posing as a clinical and pharmacology ‘expert witness,’ Mr. Johnson based his under-oath statements on, in some cases, information that did not exist, regarding the prescription benzodiazepine, clonazepam. In other instances he took a drastic departure from the FDA-regulated package insert (which clearly divides adverse clinical trial events into two separate and distinct categories) and delivered exactly the opposite information to the jury, or delivered information and represented it as accepted fact, when such information did not exist. He misled the jury by claiming by inference that this product, since it happens to be a benzodiazepine, causes nystagmus, for example. In truth, clonazepam can be and has been, according to the peer-reviewed literature (more than a few sources), used to treat and alleviate pathological nystagmus and other problems related to vision. (A partial list, here are just eight of those journal articles listed in PubMed: Currie, et al., Thurtell, et. al., Young, et. al., Cochin, et. al., Strupp, et. al., McConnell, et. al., Yokota, et. al., Inobe, et. al., and others). I will provide more detail in the body of this complaint. (References will be provided in the body of the complaint).
In addition, Mr. Johnson reported that he was “familiar with this drug” and that he had “read the literature” for this drug. His extensive review of the peer-reviewed clinical literature consisted of two articles, each written at least six years prior to the drug being marketed, available and regulated in the United States, and each published in countries outside the United States. On one article he presented information that was diametrically opposed to the article summary (related to eye movements). The other article discussed only ten volunteer healthy human subjects, only four of whom were women, none of them within ten years of my age. Mr. Johnson expanded the ten-volunteer-subject findings (again, done in a laboratory setting and not a clinical one) to include all humans taking therapeutic doses of the drug.
One resource he described relying on is called Courtroom Toxicology, which is not peer-reviewed by the clinical world, and is authored by a lawyer (likely a prosecutor). I will discuss the problematic clinical bibliography for this publication in the body of the complaint. The DRE (Drug Recognition Expert) non-peer-reviewed literature that he discusses relies, in pertinent part, on a study done on primates, in 1968, on a different drug, ten years before clonazepam was invented, 27 years before the drug was available, marketed and regulated in the United States, and 37 years before Mr. Johnson represented the information in the study as accepted scientific fact for all humans taking the drug at therapeutic doses. When I attempted to contact the author of the ape study, I learned that he is retired. That study is: 9 David A. Robinson, Eye Movement Control in Primates, 161 Science 1219 (Sept. 1968). The reference document is here.
Mr. Johnson gave a technically misleading description of the chemical structure of this drug, describing it as having a unique characteristic (an attached chlorine atom) that is, in fact common to most of the drugs in this class, and misrepresented an extraction and separation process of organic chemistry as a diagnostic quantification tool. He wrongly stated that “liquid-liquid extraction is incapable of pulling clonazepam out of the blood,” when, in fact, liquid-liquid extraction has been the gold standard for extracting this drug (and about 6,000 others) from the plasma into a pH-adjusted organic layer for years. He stated,