Friday, April 01, 2005

Frye evidence standard and patents

The April 1, 2005 broadcase of Dateline had a story "Body of Evidence" on the Sybers murder which linked themes of "voodoo science" (Frye standard) and patent applications (on what turned out to be "voodoo science."

In Panama City, FL an MD was accused of murdering his wife. Initially, no evidence of a poison was found. Later work, utilizing a mass spectrometric technique of Dr. Kevin Ballard of National Medical Services (NMS) found evidence for succinyl monocholine in tissue specimens from the deceased wife, which presence was asserted to demonstrate a prior presence of the paralysis-inducing drug, succinyl choline. [Dateline indicated Ballard and/or NMS had filed a patent application on the method.]

Defense attorney John Daniels asserted "voodoo science" (evoking images of Bob Park) although Dateline seemed to emphasize sloppy lab procedure rather than a fundamental flaw in the science.

Dr. Sybers was convicted.

In February 2003, a Florida appellate reversed the conviction, on the basis there was no "general acceptance" of the method (Frye standard). The Florida court cited to the Brim case, 663 So2d 629 (Fla 1997).

Later, the FBI [which had supported the Ballard results at trial] tested six cadavers, and found succinyl monocholine, even though there was no prior exposure to succinyl choline.

[Potentially], there is an interesting interface between the Frye standard and the patentability standard in the Sybers case with the Ballard work.


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