Sen Trial: Day 3 Morning Testimony

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The lion's share of morning testimony in the State vs. Dharminder Vir Sen trial at 4th Judicial District Court consisted mainly of experts from the Wyoming State Crime Lab, as well as an autopsy report from Dr. Thomas Bennett from Billings.

Because testimony from the crime lab is virtually identical to that given in Dennis Poitra, Jr.'s trial, we will refer our website readers to this article, beginning with the second paragraph: http://www.sheridanmedia.com/new...

First to testify from the Crime Lab Wednesday morning was Erin Olsen, a Latent Fingerprint Analyst. After describing the evidence that she'd collected in the Ernst home and then examined when back in Cheyenne, Sen's attorney Tim Cotton asked if she'd discovered anything that would identify Dharminder Sen as having specifically handled it. She said, "No." When asked why she didn't refer the landscape timber on for DNA testing, Olsen explained that that was not her area of expertise, nor her determination to make.

Jennifer Malone is a Forensic Scientist in the Trace Unit, and she explained Wednesday in detail about how it is necessary to look for the elements of lead, antimony and barium when examining gunshot residue kits, or GSR. [see her results in the Poitra trial testimony story]. After, Cotton asked her that since only lead had been found on Sen's GSR results on his hands, wasn't it possible to come into contact with other sources that would contain lead. Malone said that lead has other possible sources, such as working on cars, soldering, etc. But she also explained that with GSR particles, she looks for the morphology, or shape, of them. She said that GSR lead shapes are of a certain characteristic, either irregular or sporoidal. In Sen's case, the two particles were sporoidal.

Michelle Martin is a Forensic Analyst in the Biology Unit of the Crime Lab, and performed preliminary DNA testing on several items of evidence. She told the Court that from a Presumptive Chemical Test, positive reactions were present on the swab from the trigger area of the handgun, several clothing items, and a white bandana. Confirmatory Tests resulted in positive results on Mr. Ernst's white t-shirt, swabs from the bedroom floor, and the doorways of the bedroom, kitchen and laundryroom, two black bandanas and a blue jacket. She also used an Alternate Light Source test on three black bandanas and a white bandana. From these results, she determined they could be submitted for further DNA testing. Cotton had no cross exam questions for Martin.

Scott Williams is a Forensic Scientist in the Biology and DNA Unit at the Crime lab, specializing in determining the origin and types of DNA. He testified to receiving the items from Michelle Martin, explaining that the probability statistics on DNA give weight to a sample belonging to a given source. Regarding the swab from the handgun trigger, the sample tested matched the known sample from the DNA swab gathered on August 26, 2009 of Dharminder Sen. He also explained that Wyoming follows four standard databases: Caucasian, African American, Southwest Hispanic and Southeast Hispanic. the results were 1 in 2.3 tillion on the Caucasian database; 1 in 110 trillion on the African American database; 1 in 34 trillion on the SE Hispanic database; and 1 in 9 trillion on the SW Hispanic database.

On cross examination, Cotton asked him why there is no database used for more eastern ethnicities, such as East Indian, Pakistani or Middle Eastern. Williams said that a more personalized dateabase was not requested, but are available to check against if specified. On re-direct, prosecutor Matt Redle asked how much different the results might have been. Williams said it would still be in the trillions, but even in the millions, the difference is vast.

And Steven Norris is a Firearms Examiner with the DCI Crime Lab, and a principal analyst in the Firearm & Toolmarking section. His testimony centered on his examination of the 9 mm handgun used in the Ernst shooting, as well as bullets and casings. He also explained how casings would be ejected from the handgun, saying they would fall on average several inches to the right and several inches to the rear of where fired. Norris told the Court that he fired five shots to determine a "mean" average.

On cross examination, Cotton argued that five shots weren't very many to establish an average measurement, to which Norris replied that five shots were sufficient. Cotton also stated that other variables such as the shooter's height, how the gun was held, what obstacles might have been in the way or if final rounds had been moved should be taken into consideration. Norris agreed; on re-direct, Redle asked, "Aren't your tests done, not to look for specifics but to give an idea?" Norris responded, "Yes."

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