The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local news

December 6, 2012

Manslaughter trial resumes, jury hears OSBI testimony

ENID, Okla. — The trial of a 26-year-old Enid man accused of manslaughter and DUI with great bodily harm resumed Wednesday.

Vincent Blaine Sixkiller was charged Nov. 18, 2010, in the death of Robert Ukena and severe injury of Michelle Schartz, caused by a  four-vehicle crash at about 2:04 a.m. on West Willow five days earlier.

He faces at least four years imprisonment on the manslaughter charge, and a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment for one to five years on the DUI charge.

The six-man, six-woman jury seated late Monday evening heard testimony from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation lab supervisor, who conducted testing on blood taken from Sixkiller following the collision.

Assistant District Attorney Irene Asai called Paul Wallace, forensic toxicologist and supervisor for OSBI’s toxicology section.

Asai asked Wallace to briefly explain his qualifications and education. Josh Lee, representing Sixkiller with attorney Evans Chambers, asked to question Wallace about his qualifications as an expert witness.

Lee questioned Wallace about his qualifications prior to his testifying about Sixkiller’s blood sample.

Lee asked Wallace whether he listed his education as bachelor of science in biology/chemistry, demonstrating how it appeared using a paper tablet and marker.

“It’s not exactly accurate,” Lee said. “You don’t have a separate one (degree) in chemistry, do you? You don’t have any Ph.D. degree at all, do you? You don’t have any master’s degree at all?”

Wallace said he didn’t hold any advanced degrees in chemistry, only a minor with his BS in biology.

Lee went over Wallace’s resumé, asking him whether the jobs listed required the use of a gas chromatograph or required he test blood for alcohol content. Wallace said the only job he’s held that required that was the one he has with OSBI.

Lee also questioned Wallace about his expertise in the field of pharmacology, if he had any special study in the field. Wallace said it had been covered at seminars and schools, but he had no formal training in the discipline.

Lee asked District Judge Paul Woodward that Wallace only be called as an expert in OSBI processes and not the area of pharmacology. Woodward said he would let Wallace testify and allow jurors to determine what weight to give his testimony.

Asai produced the results of nine calibration and verification tests conducted on the OSBI gas chromatograph prior to testing Sixkiller’s blood. Wallace testified in each of those tests the machine was working properly, and the results in each calibration and verification run were “within acceptable standards.”

Wallace testified Sixkiller’s blood sample was tested twice, coming back both times with a blood alcohol content of 0.23 grams of ethyl alcohol per 100 mL of blood, almost four times the legal BAC limit of 0.08.

Another two tests were run on the machine after the sample of Sixkiller’s blood, each yielding results “within acceptable standards,” Wallace said.

Wallace said Sixkiller’s blood was tested twice again, with a larger batch of OSBI cases four days later. The results of those tests were 0.20 and 0.21.

Wallace said the first sampling would be the more accurate, and “it would not be unusual for the second sample to be slightly lower than the first sample” due to vapor loss from the vial being opened for the first test.

In response to a question from Asai, Wallace pointed out even if Sixkiller’s BAC were 0.20, it still would be more than twice the legal limit.

During his cross-examination of Wallace, Lee used several approaches to raise the possibility his client’s blood wasn’t the blood tested, or that contamination altered the state’s results.

Jurors also heard from a registered nurse and former Enid Police Department officer who handled the blood samples taken from Sixkiller following the collision.

Michael Osgood testified he took Sixkiller to St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center to have blood drawn. He said his records showed blood was taken at 3:33 a.m. Nurse Karen Watts said the blood kit never left her sight after she drew four vials of blood for the kit.

Dr. Joseph Knapik, who helped treat Schartz after the collision, said Schartz suffered a severe traumatic brain injury in the collision. Knapik said he worked with Schartz through the rehabilitation program at St. Mary’s, even after she was discharged into her mother’s care Dec. 22, 2010.

“She just really couldn’t care for herself on her own,” the doctor said. “She needed 24-hour supervision. She was going to need the assistance of others.”

Knapik said he was proud of Schartz because of the progress she’s made. He said Schartz likely still would need some care for the rest of her life.

The day’s testimony concluded with Dr. Jeremy Phelps, the neurosurgeon who treated both Ukena and Schartz at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center the night of the collision.

Phelps said Schartz was unconscious, minimally responsive and in critical condition when she was admitted to the hospital. After further examination, she was diagnosed with a severe concussion.

Phelps said Schartz remained in intensive care for two days before being moved to rehabilitation, and six weeks after the collision, she still suffered from memory difficulties and speech problems.

Phelps also testified on the chain of events that led to Ukena’s death three days after the collision.

Phelps said Ukena was non-responsive, with minimal brain stem reflexes when he was admitted on Nov. 13, 2010, and emergency surgery was conducted to relieve bleeding between Ukena’s skull and brain. Ukena never regained consciousness and was removed from life support and declared dead on Nov. 16, 2010.

Phelps said Ukena’s death was caused “in a step-wise progression” by a burst blood vessel that was consistent with injuries suffered in the vehicle collision.

The trial resumes at 9 a.m. today.

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