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The Courts Science

Chemist Jailed In Russia For Giving Expert Opinion In Court 232

Posted by Soulskill
from the science-will-rise-up-against-you dept.
scibri writes "Think the imprisonment of Pussy Riot is a miscarriage of justice? Check out the story of their cellmate: Chemist Olga Nikolaevna Zelenina heads a laboratory at the Penza Agricultural Institute. She is an expert in the biology of hemp and poppy, and is a sought-after expert in legal cases involving narcotics produced from these plants. Last year, she was asked by defense lawyers to give her opinion in a case involving imported poppy seeds. The prosecutors didn't like her evidence though, and now she's in prison accused of complicity in organized drug trafficking."
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Chemist Jailed In Russia For Giving Expert Opinion In Court

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Clearly a criminal mastermind. Russia's answer to Walter White.

  • Same in the US (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Wow, sort of like the private equity firms that support Romney getting investigated and subpoena'd while MF Global and John Corzine (an Obama supporter) go free. As the government behemoth grows, so does the need to appease the beast lest you suffer the wraith of those in power. Sad.

    • Re:Same in the US (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 21, 2012 @06:06PM (#41416087)

      I was about to reply to this story when I read your response. I tend to agree that the New Russia is becoming like the New Amerika. Can we bring back the guillotine and have a simultaneous American-Russian Revolution in which the people of both countries rise up against their own Ruling Class or Bourgoise. Nothing like blood in the streets to keep the bureaucrats in check.

      Captcha: 'disdain' - poetic and timely

    • Re:Same in the US (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Virtucon (127420) on Friday September 21, 2012 @06:07PM (#41416091)

      There has been a long standing belief that them that has the gold makes the rules. In our country justice is supposed to be blind but as we hear more and more those without resources caught in the wheels of justice often get turned into gear lube. While I'm concerned with it, I don't think ultimately that our system of justice is flawed completely however your statement would be on the investigative/prosecutorial side of things, not in terms of the court. In the pussy riot brewhaha, the judge should have thrown the case out, but it would appear that the judge is also serving the guy in office rather than the business of the people. In this case I can't see how a judge would keep this scientist in detention for just an opinion based on documented testing results, that is unless she did it for somebody else. I guess there's just more to this than we're being told, kind of like "Fast and Furious?"

      • What it really comes down to is this... Money buys anything. Your friends, leaders, family CAN be bought at the right price. That is the nature of money. That is the nature of humans. You can have all of the ideals in the world, but even God needs money to do anything. Ideologies are nice, but there is always an asshole to exploit the system. You can never separate money from power because one guarantees another. Redistributing the wealth only amounts to those that would't have the money get taken by those
  • by Roobles (1880882) on Friday September 21, 2012 @06:00PM (#41416055)
    Well, from the looks of the article, her testimone prevented someone from facing jail time. And clearly someone needed to be jailed. A simple and obvious solution, if you ask me. </sarcasm>
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 21, 2012 @06:05PM (#41416081)

      It is the law of conservation of happiness: happiness cannot be created or destroyed, only transferred from one person to another. It is not a physical law, but a real Russian law. After all, why do you think Putin is always so cheerful? Shooting tigers, wrestling bears, skydiving, etc.?

      • by Virtucon (127420) on Friday September 21, 2012 @08:45PM (#41417499)

        So what you're saying is that Putin is a giant Incubus, sucking all the happiness out of Russia?

      • You jest, but speculate with me. I thought of the best way to spend a wish, and at first I thought "Everyone would live a long, happy life". But, in terms of progress, this is the worst wish anyone could have. People would die happy starving to death. People would be happy letting pedophiles live out their psychosis. The odds of what makes people happy is so dynamic, that you couldn't have a world of everyone getting along without parish
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It happens enough in the US that prosecutors are willing to do unethical and sometimes illegal things to get their conviction.

      • It happens enough in the US that prosecutors are willing to do unethical and sometimes illegal things to get their conviction.

        Sad but all too true.

        (Posting to remove mis-mod.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 21, 2012 @06:01PM (#41416057)

    Outlaw science!

  • by Virtucon (127420) on Friday September 21, 2012 @06:02PM (#41416061)

    I would think that maybe this is not related to that particular case or is it? I realize with the whole Pussy Riot thing was blown way out of proportion but I would think that this sends a chill down the backs of every citizen in Russia today if it's true.

    I didn't see in the article what the formal charges were, just "charged with complicity" socould she have helped some other organization and also, why didn't the prosecutors corroborate or refute the evidence she presented with another analysis of the poppy materials?

    • by Muros (1167213) on Friday September 21, 2012 @06:12PM (#41416141)
      Why refute evidence when you can just arrest anyone who contradicts you with facts?
    • by ACS Solver (1068112) on Friday September 21, 2012 @07:15PM (#41416673)

      It is related to the case. I'm reading Russian sources, but the English TFA says as much.

      Basically, in 2010, the Russian FSKN (a law enforcement organization specifically fighting drugs) initiated criminal proceedings on allegation of drug contraband in poppy seeds. FSKN experts concluded that the shipment does constitute a shipment of drugs. Zelenina, as an expert witness, said that the particular shipment did not have intentionally added narcotic compounds, and that small amounts of those substances were present because it is in fact impossible to eliminate them entirely from poppy seeds. And now she's jailed on charges of being party to a contraband shipment of drugs. Interestingly, I read that a new legal standard adopted in Russia in 2005 specifies that poppy seeds must be completely free of these narcotic traces, which is a technological impossibility and thus poppy is now only imported and not grown.

      Fun thing is that there's another section in Russian law that allows people to be charged for making deliberately false expert witness statements - but she was not charged with that. The punishment for false statements is considerably lower than for drug contraband.

      This is actually old news (she's been in jail for a month) but is cropping up again because her appeal is being heard.

      • by Virtucon (127420)

        Okay, that explains a lot. So, I guess we'll have to wait for to see what evidence is presented at the trial but I would think that if this is not thrown out by the court, it would definitely be a set back for progress in Russia. I guess the one take away in all of this is not to trust any government nor its legal system because a prosecutor can ruin your life with little evidence or trumped up charges.

    • It doesn't have anything to do with the Pussy Riot case, other than the (accidental) fact that she ended up in the same cell with Tolokonnikova. The case she was an expert witness was a completely different one, per TFA:

      In September 2011, the defence attorneys of Sergey Shilov, a Russian businessman under investigation by the Russian Federal Drug Control Service (FDCS), asked her to provide an expert opinion on the amount of opiates that could possibly be extracted from 42 metric tonnes of food poppy seeds that Shilov had imported from Spain in 2010. ... In her expert report, Zelenina stated that it is technically impossible to fully eliminate such impurities from poppy seeds, as Russian laws require. She also wrote that the seized seeds did not contain any deliberately added narcotic compounds

  • by RobertLTux (260313) <[robert] [at] [laurencemartin.org]> on Friday September 21, 2012 @06:11PM (#41416133)

    She did LAB TESTS on i would assume a bunch of semi random samples of a shipment of Poppy Seeds and concluded that THIS SHIPMENT was so low in Drugs that this was not a DRUG shipment but a FOOD shipment. So the response of The Government is to JAIL HER for being "in on it". I would assume she had things like lab reports and such which were submitted as evidence and that Somebody Else has not done the same work and found different results (her "random" samples just "happened" to be Clean).

    Comrades Put down the Vodka for a moment and THINK.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Man, fuck you, I think best with a bottle of Vodka in my hands.

    • und zo Comrade Chemist must go to re-education. how can you not see ze logick here? or, iss zere, perhaps, another explaination? ....

    • by msauve (701917)
      Because, after all, it's profitable to import 42 metric tonnes of poppy seeds, at a market price of around $190,000 ($4600/tonne [beckleyfoundation.org]), in order to extract 390 grams of morphine (based on the 0.00069% content according to the article). Based only on raw material cost, that's around close to $500/gram.

      A quick Google says a 30 mg dose has a street price of $10, so that 390 grams has a street price of ~$130,000. Maybe the additional codeine content would bring it past break-even, if processing/packaging/distributi
      • by tftp (111690)

        Because, after all, it's profitable to import 42 metric tonnes of poppy seeds, at a market price of around $190,000 ($4600/tonne [beckleyfoundation.org]), in order to extract 390 grams of morphine (based on the 0.00069% content according to the article).

        The seeds will not be destroyed. You separate the seeds and sell them. Whatever remains you put into processing and additionally get whatever you can.

        Of course this process makes no profit if the drug content is so low. IMO, the prosecutor is just throw

        • by msauve (701917)
          "The seeds will not be destroyed."

          What makes you say that? Obviously, the original source did as economical separation as possible, probably using screens before shipment. So, the opiate bearing material is likely "fines," not easily separated.

          I used simple prices/costs, ignoring any processing/packaging/distribution, and 100% extraction. If the value of the seeds is to be recovered, that can only increase the processing cost - assuming there is any reasonable method of separation at all. Additionally, 10
          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            If the value of the seeds is to be recovered, that can only increase the processing cost - assuming there is any reasonable method of separation at all.

            If there is no reasonable method of separation then there is no point to doing anything, because they cannot cost-effectively chemically process the entire batch of seeds. They must separate the parts which bear the active ingredient if there is to be any point.

            I have to think that if importing opiates is the goal, it would be cheaper and more profitable to simply sneak a kg of finished product across the border.

            At these concentrations there is probably nothing whatsoever that you could do to get the opiates out in a cost-effective fashion, which was the entire point of the testimony.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Friday September 21, 2012 @06:37PM (#41416347) Journal

      Comrades Put down the Vodka for a moment and THINK.

      If anyone involved with drug prohibition actually thought, there would be no drug prohibition.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        If anyone involved with drug prohibition actually thought, there would be no drug prohibition.

        That is the most naive thing I've seen all day. They have thought it through very carefully, and they sleep on a gigantic pile of money. Some of them, of course, have just been stupid. The majority are corrupt.

    • it's russian justice. which is an oxymoron

      a court room merely provides the veneer of impartiality. the state controls the judges, the state controls everything. whatever verdict the state wants, it gets. actual justice is not the point. power and control is

      russia still believes in the strong man mentality. one strong dude has to control all. this is viewed as strength. when of course, this is colossal weakness. many russians understand this. but if they speak out about it, they get jailed, censured, fired or otherwise ostracized. it's sad

      as long as there is a large pool of russians that respect and believe in the idea of the big strong man, russia is doomed to mediocrity and, paradoxically, weakness

      • It's a good question in light of this story.
        • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

          in a way, yes

          beat the population, you teach the population power and strength means beating the population. some break the cycle, but enough continue the brutality to keep the brutality going generation after generation

          no country is immune from this

          in the usa, we have a bunch of ignorant rural southerners who faithfully vote republican, even though they live shorter, unhealthier lives, because of republican policies

          how is this possible? well, education is deemphasized: that's evil liberal indoctrination. so

      • many russians understand this. but if they speak out about it, they get jailed, censured, fired or otherwise ostracized. it's sad

        A slight correction. You can speak out about it, just not loud enough. Generally speaking, the higher you distribute the message, the more likely you are to get into trouble. Ranting here on Slashdot, like I do, is not their concern. Publishing it in newspapers is.

  • by wierd_w (1375923) on Friday September 21, 2012 @06:13PM (#41416157)

    Seriously. The very language of the charge spells out the kind of justice that is being dished out: we say you are guilty, and the court is a formality. Don't question the ruling party comrade.

    If her report showed that the defendant couldn't possibly have been importing poppyseeds for the manufacture of narcotics, due to the almost undetectable levels of the required compounds in the imported samples, then he should have been released, and charges dropped.

    Claiming that she is complicit with drug smuggling means they found the defendant in the case she testifed for to be guilty anyway. Otherwise, how could she have been complicit in his "criminal importation operation"?

    Seriously-- I thought this kind of shit ended with the cold war, and that Russia was trying its best to become a respectable member of the global community. Seriously... this shit is out of control.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Seriously-- I thought this kind of shit ended with the cold war, and that Russia was trying its best to become a respectable member of the global community.

      You forgot, we replaced the cold war with the drug war. There's nothing respectable about any country involved with either.

    • Russia has become a little more free than it was when it was part of the USSR, but not much. http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2012/russia-0 [freedomhouse.org] more or less it has presented the facade of a democracy, but is still a one party centrally controlled system.

    • Russia's power structure has only marginally evolved since the nineteenth century. Even the USSR wasn't very different from the Czar regime.
  • Here in America we jail people just for making bad movies!

    • by Spy Handler (822350) on Friday September 21, 2012 @06:35PM (#41416337) Homepage Journal
      George Lucas is in jail??!
    • by surmak (1238244)

      Here in America we jail people just for making bad movies!

      The fact that we don't jail people for making bad movies is the reason that there have been riots around the Muslim world the past week. Many of the people in those countries just cannot comprehend that the government can do nothing about the film other then issuing statements.

      • The fact that we don't jail people for making bad movies is the reason that there have been riots around the Muslim world the past week.

        We don't? That very filmmaker was arrested at midnight and hauled off to jail.

        The riots were pre-planned, that movie was just a handy excuse to base them around.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Where you'll be arrested for resisting arrest.

  • ... oh wait.... ... nevermind.

  • by Kaz Kylheku (1484) on Friday September 21, 2012 @06:37PM (#41416357) Homepage

    From the article it is evident that she made precise measurements with lab equipment and presented them in court.
    Any of her colleagues could have repeated those measurements.

    • From the article it is evident that she made precise measurements with lab equipment and presented them in court.
      Any of her colleagues could have repeated those measurements.

      But would they be willing to testify in court to confirm those same measurements, after what happened to her?

    • by tqk (413719)

      From the article it is evident that she made precise measurements with lab equipment and presented them in court.

      The prosecution is accusing her of having reported on biased test results. Make lots of tests, but only report the lowest detected concentrations.

      Any of her colleagues could have repeated those measurements.

      Or, just start over with their own sampling and testing.

      I'm guessing corrupt prosecutor. He hasn't seen enough tithe in his bank account, so she's going down.

  • by redelm (54142) on Friday September 21, 2012 @06:47PM (#41416461) Homepage

    ... all it takes is _one_ over-zealous persecutor. The other prosecutors might think it going too far, or might even be genuinely outraged. But what can they do? Charges are charges, and will grind through the pre-established system. She might [or might not] be able to "beat the rap", but no-where can a targetted individual "beat the ride".

    One could say things about Russia's lack of tradition and understanding of basic human rights. But frankly I'm not convinced this matters much -- look at how rapidly the majority of Americans have accepted the appalling violations of the TSA.

    One might say western judges have a greater sense of procedural necessities like attorney-client or judicial privilige. But judges have been ground down over the years by the stick of overturned-on-appeal and the carrot of higher appointments. Judges routinely accept any intelligent or independant juror being rejected, and AFAIK none will instruct a jury on their [still legal] nullification power. Even some of the USSC rulings are bizzarely in favor of govt (property seizure).

  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Friday September 21, 2012 @06:50PM (#41416491)

    in soviet russia we miscarriage you!

    • by tqk (413719)

      in soviet russia we miscarriage you!

      "soviet russia" is so last century. You need a new meme.

  • by gman003 (1693318) on Friday September 21, 2012 @06:57PM (#41416559)

    As much as it clashes with both our "Russia is evil" and our "science is right" mindsets, there are some explanations that could justify this. I'm not saying they're actually what happened (indeed, "Russia is evil" is the simplest and most likely explanation), but someone more fluent in Russian than I can look at the actual documents and see.

    First, suppose the expert is not actually an expert, just an accomplice of the traffickers posing as one to try to get out of the charges. Rather obvious conspiracy charges there.

    But let's suppose the expert scientist is indeed both an expert and a scientist. But let's also suppose that some stronger evidence showed clear drug charges - for instance, finding actual drugs and video evidence of trafficking. This could mean the expert was simply incompetent, or was bought off. Either of those would be grounds for obstruction of justice, although probably not conspiracy (at least according to my limited knowledge of a different country's laws).

    Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go actually read the article.

  • by Penurious Penguin (2687307) on Friday September 21, 2012 @07:18PM (#41416699) Homepage Journal
    How about gruel-born double-standards?
    I've been wondering what all this hysteria about Big Bad Russia is about for some time now. Surely Russia is no Shambhala, but the US is a veritable litigation shit-hole slaughterhouse. We, here in the U.S. of A., imprison more people than any other nation [nytimes.com]. We have a privatized prison-industry and trade virtual crime-futures on the stock-exchange. Closer and closer we are coming to a re-introduction of prison labor, all while a repugnantly large portion of incarcerated citizens live in cages for victimless crimes.

    My advice to anyone itching to don the Good-Guy Badge and storm the palace of bacchanalian litigation, is to look no further if you are a US citizen. In no way do I suggest that pointing fingers at corruption is error; but we really do have some house-cleaning of our own to do -- and to recklessly embrace hypocrisy may not be wise.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      We, here in the U.S. of A., imprison more people than any other nation.

      That's because we don't murder so many as some others, like China, where they legally murder ten times as many people as we do, per capita.

      My advice to anyone itching to don the Good-Guy Badge and storm the palace of bacchanalian litigation, is to look no further if you are a US citizen.

      Before we get around to that, let's storm them for doing murder in our name in pursuit of profit.

  • by Graham J - XVI (1076671) on Friday September 21, 2012 @07:21PM (#41416733) Homepage Journal

    ...seeds jail YOU.

"Just Say No." - Nancy Reagan "No." - Ronald Reagan

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