Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014

Jeff Carlson jury begins deliberations


Published:   |   Updated: August 30, 2013 at 04:52 PM

VERO BEACH - Still wearing a wedding ring, Jeff Carlson sobbed throughout his 70-minute testimony Friday morning as he admitted his boat was going too fast three years ago when his wife, Julie, died.

Testimony ended at 12:15 p.m. as Judge Robert Pegg sent the six women jurors to lunch.

Friday began with defense attorney Michael Snure attacking Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab results through expert witness Janine Arvizo.

When the FDLE lab tested Carlson's blood on the night of Julie Carlson's death, four results were reported. All four were higher than 0.07. Under Florida law, he was impaired.

But were those results correct?

Arvizo is a Ph.D. candidate who has contracted with the federal government and has testified at federal trials. She is paid $150 per hour for her testimony.

"What concerned you?" asked Snure, an Orlando attorney.

In August 1999, according to the lab's own records, a test spiked the results, Arvizo said, and that test was supposed to be a control sample, a blank sample with no alcohol in it.

Do you have confidence in that lab's results, Snure asked.

"No, unfortunately we don't."

"Are they reliable?" Snure asked.

"No," she replied. "It's a control sample; it's a red flag warning that there's something wrong. The lab didn't pay attention to or respond to the problem, they put their blinders on."

Then the prosecutor began calling her credentials into question. Upon cross examination by State Attorney David Dodd, Arvizo admitted she has not training in forensic alcohol testing and has never tested alcohol professionally.

"When is he last time you actually worked in a lab?"

Back in the '80s," she said.

Asked to read Carlson's lab results, Arvizo began to quibble, but Dodd listed the four readings on a whiteboard.

They were all between 0.07637 and 0.07659.

"That's pretty good, right?" Dodd asked.

She smiled. "Just because it's precise, that doesn't mean it's accurate."

"If it was a quality control sample, it would be a good result?"

"It could be," she replied. "Depending on what the result should be."

Carlson testified he had two or more beers that morning, then at least two rum and cokes with his dinner appetizer and dinner.

Then, State Attorney David Dodd alleged, he got into his boat, impaired, in the dark, with a spotlight not working, and crashed his boat into a piling the size of a telephone pole. It was the equivalent of doing the same in a car.

No, Snure rebutted. The state has not proved a crime occurred, only that Carlson made a mistake to which he admitted before the jury.

Scott and Annie Noethlich were sitting in the front, saw the pole and called out, but it was too late, Carlson testified. He saw his wife fall into one of the gunnels of the boat, realized she may be badly injured, and drove back to the dock where the Carlsons and Noethlichs had eaten.

The rest of the evening was a nightmare. He was held by law enforcement officers, told nothing, wondering whether his wife was dead or alive. He didn't find out until early the next morning that Julie had died.

Attorneys for the prosecution and defense finished their cases after 4 p.m. The jury was instructed by Judge Robert Pegg, and may return with a verdict late Friday.

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