Forensic analyst erred on Motata's blood

The forensic analyst who assessed Judge Nkola Motata’s blood alcohol content on Wednesday admitted to ignoring scientific standards when analysing blood samples.

When asked by defence advocate Danie Dorfling if he “agreed” that he ignored the Council for Scientific Industrial Research (CSIR) standards, analyst Logan Govender said: “That’s correct”.

With the help of an expert who headed the Pretoria Forensic Laboratory for 20 years, Dorfling argued that calculations and methods used to test the alcohol level in Motata’s blood in March 2007 might have been wrong.

Motata’s blood was drawn on January 6 2007 following an accident in which he crashed his Jaguar into the perimeter wall of a Hurlingham property in Johannesburg, allegedly while drunk.

His blood samples, which were only handed to Govender for analysis about two months after the accident, had been the centre of Dorfling’s argument since the trial resumed on Tuesday.

In November last year, Govender testified that the sample he analysed recorded a concentration of alcohol in the blood as 0,2g per 100ml. The legal limit is 0,05g per 100ml.

Dorfling argued on Wednesday that the Johannesburg forensic laboratory procedures were erroneous, and that they could have negatively affected the outcome of the assessment of his client’s blood.

He also queried the air-conditioning temperature at the laboratory, saying it was not supposed to be set at 25 degrees Celsius.

“The CSIR maintains the temperature carried out should be at 20 plus or minus three degrees ... by implementing 25 degrees, you ignored the CSIR standards ...
Is it [the air-conditioning] a convenience issue? Are analysts getting cold?” he said.

When asked if he agreed to this and that “the wrong use of density of water has an effect on your results”, Govender answered “yes”.

“Wrong density of water ... hence wrong volume of liquid ... hence impact on formulae and the alcohol content percentage,” Dorfling said.

In his defence, Govender maintained he had used the CSIR standards, coupled with procedures set out for analysts at the Johannesburg forensic laboratory.

Following numerous calculations by Dorfling and the use of scientific and chemistry studies in court, Govender admitted he had erred.

Dorfling is expected to complete cross-examining Govender at noon on Friday. The case was postponed to Friday, without any reasons given.

Earlier in his cross-examination, Dorfling said he still had to go through some “chemistry literature” to further argue that procedure used by the Johannesburg laboratory to test Motata’s blood was inaccurate.

He, however, denied the case was postponed for this reason when later questioned by Sapa.

State prosecutor Zaais van Zyl also declined to elaborate on the reasons for the postponement.

“If the magistrate did not mention it, it is best that I don’t talk about it,” he said.

Once Dorfling completes his cross-examination, Van Zyl is expected to call more witnesses to the stand.

He declined to reveal their names, saying only that the witnesses were “people who were involved in drawing and delivering the blood to the laboratory”.—Sapa

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