Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cheng for Dummies

One of our frequent commenters, Wearhing a Halo (WAH), suggests that I have misunderstood Dr. Cheng's testimony. To quote from his comment:

"At best Dr. Cheng mispoke and at worst Dr. Cheng was misquoted by the court reporter/transcriber when Dr. Cheng said '40 knots (kn)'. It is my contention is that Dr. Cheng meant "40 kilometers (km)". 40 km fits with the data where 40 kn does not. If Dr. Cheng did state 40 kn . . ."

So, let's discuss this possibility.

First, let's start by reviewing what Cheng actually said:

"I felt that was, wow, quite a wind event during that day. I really recall in my own mind, you can see now the scientific records showed us now during that particular period of time, in the morning, or starting from the midnight of the midnight April 11th, or early morning of April 12th, you can see wind exceeded 40 knots. 40 knots, wind exceeded. Also a sustained wind for long period of time, subsided slightly, but still continued on for another good twelve, eighteen hours with wind average around twenty knots per hour."

Cheng actually repeated 40 knots. Now, sometimes he did misspeak, but then corrected himself. He repeated 40 knots, to emphasize it, in my opinion, not to correct it.

Second, the transcript spells out the word knots; the abbreviation kn is not used, so it's not a simple case of the Court Reporter mishearing or making a typo. Knots is a one syllable word; kilometers is a 4-syllable word. Knots doesn't sound anything like kilometers. I really don't think a Court Reporter could hear kilometers and record knots.

Third, when do Americans ever measure wind speed in kilometers? How many Americans even know what a kilometer is? Well, I checked, just to be sure, using a handy online converter.

40km per hour = 24.9 mph.

Yes, WAH, that significantly reduces the wind speed, as 40 knots per hour equals 46 mph. So this "wow, quite a wind event" has gone down from 46 mph to 24.9 mph.

But does that mean we then have to refigure the sustained winds for 12-18 hours of 20 knots per hour? 20 knots per hour which converts to 23 mph really should have been 20km per hour, which converts to 12.4 mph. I know people in the Bay Area can be really whimpy when it comes to wind events, but calling 12.4 mph winds a "wow, quite a wind event" is beyond whimpy.

But then we have the characterization by Distaso. Initial winds of 24.9 mph followed by sustained winds of 12.4 mph equals a "very violent storm" as Distaso called it in the State's Closing Argument? Talk about hyperbole.

WAH, I readily admit, 12.4 mph much better describes the "wow quite a wind event" on April 12, but does that really help the State's case? I don't think 12.4 mph winds qualify as a "wow, quite a wind event/very violent storm" for the Bay.

Keep talking, WAH. I'm sure Scott appreciates your efforts to clear up what Cheng really meant and to expose the truth about the storm as well as the hyperbole in Distaso's characterization. Let's see, I seem to recall that to intentionally misrepresent evidence is prosecutorial misconduct.

Any one have a larger petri dish handy?


lsmith510 said...

It is interesting that even WAH's research shows that Cheng's data does not match the actual wind data.

I agree Marlene - it seems HIGHLY unlikely that the court reporter would type knots for kilometers.

Not only did Cheng repeat himself - he used the word knots when talking about windspeed 14 other times in his testimony - the word kilometers - zero.

Anonymous said...

Wearing A Halo said...

When Dr. Cheng first mentions wind velocity, he mentions it in m/sec, which is in scientific terms--scientist use this SI unit in their formulas and calculations. Then scientists convert their answers to km/h, from this one can convert to MPH and/or Knots. If Dr. Cheng did in fact state "40 knots" and meant it, then he is wrong in saying it so according to the data that is available. If Dr. Cheng did not mean to say "40 knots", then he is mistaken in saying it so according to the data available. Now, if it is so that Dr. Cheng states "40 knots", both the prosecution and the defense have the data to reference any statements made by Dr. Cheng. The prosecution never corrected Dr. Cheng, as to ask him, 'don't you really mean "exceeded 20 knots" or "exceeded 40 kilometers"--two statements which would be true according to the data available. Furthermore, MG didn't call Dr. Cheng on his "40 knots" to catch him in a misleading, error or a lie to the court. Surely MG would have loved to needle Dr. Cheng for such a statement that would not be true according to the data available. None of the above ever occured, which leads me to think that Dr. Cheng as a scientist was thinking in the scientific terms of kilometers and thus stated "40", but there is no reason to state "knots" when he tells the court that there is scientific data that can be observed--there is no reason at all for Dr. Cheng to lie, none! I think at best he mispoke, if he indeed stated "40 knots" or the transcriber misread the abbreviation km for kn--I doubt very much that a court reporter using a stenography would type out k-i-l-o-m-e-t-e-r-s, nor type out k-n-o-t-s in a court testimony. I do hope that anyone that reads Dr. Cheng's complete testimony--both direct and cross--can actually grasp and understand what he said in court and not make up specious arguments and call Dr. Cheng a liar when he is not--maybe he is wrong or mistaken or misinterpreted on "40 knots", but, he is not a liar in this case.

lsmith510 said...

So WAH - just to summarize what I think you are take issue with Cheng being called a liar - or any implication that he was deceptive in his testimony....but you agree that his testimony - as it reads in the transcripts - does not match the actual data for the wind events of that time?

Anonymous said...

Wearing A Halo said...

I agree that the "40 knots" does not match the actual data, but, '40 kilometers' does match the actual data. My contention is that there is no reason to state "40 knots" and then state in testimony, "you can see now the scientific records showed us now during that particular period of time, ..." when the scientific records do not show 40 knots. The operative number is 40 and the transcripts have it as "40 knots", but again, a court reporter would not spell out every single word, if that were the case then they might as well use a typewriter and not a stenography machine which is used for short hand. As for the 20 knots during 14-18 hours of a storm, it does match the data. I was not in the court room, so I can never say what it was that Dr. Cheng said, but MN was and she can tell us what she remembers what Dr. Cheng said. It is known that Dr. Cheng has a heavy accent, the court reporter did have some trouble with the word error, but never said anything with kilometers or knots, but the abbreviations are km and kn so it may be possible the transcriber mixed them up. So to sum it up, IMO, Dr. Cheng did not lie, nor deceptive when his testimony was more than fair to both the prosecution and the defense. My peeve, is that MN has no evidence that Conner was planted and has never had an essay that states "Conner was planted", so instead she has an essay that states "Conner did not wash ashore". MN uses Dr. Cheng's testimony as her basis and states that his testimony is "blatantly false". One of her ideas is the PVD has Conner washing up on shore at the wrong time, when in fact, the PVD is not tracking Conner at those given times and Dr. Cheng never testified at what time Conner washed ashore--so yes, I do take issue with Dr. Cheng being called a liar and deceptive when he was not.

Marlene Newell said...

WAH, your adjustment to Cheng's testimony still does not fit the data. Gusts are not sustained winds. If he was talking about gusts, he had legal and moral responsibility to say so. He said "sustained winds," not "gusts." Gusts are not sustained winds.

The BAAQMD records the strongest gust for each hour -- all gusts are not that strong. It also records the strongest straight winds for each hour. Straight winds are not a constant speed the entire hour. If you want to understand how wind varies, go to NOAA Richmond Station, Meteorological observations, and plug in April 12, 2003, local time, 6-minute data, and you will see just how much variation there are in gusts and straight winds.

And you still ignore the breakwater and the debris line. Cheng apparently did, too, as he never went to the Conner recovery site.

Anonymous said...

Wearing A Halo said...

I am not ingnoring the breakwater, nor the debris line. IMO, it was not necessary for Dr. Cheng to be at the Conner recovery site--I am sure he is familiar with the area and what it looks like. Dr. Cheng was not asked to prove that Conner washed ashore, he was asked to figure out from where he came from; would it be possible that Conner would have come from the area that SLP was trying out his boat. Read the testimony from Tod Opdyke and from Tim Gard (especially the cross and re-direct from both). It has been said by many that Conner washed ashore, even SLP's consultant said that Conner was in the water 2, 3, 4 days before being found--I know he did not testify, but he did say there is no question about it.

Marlene Newell said...

WAH, you gotta be kidding! When is someone saying something evidence? You are ignoring the breakwater and the debris line if that is the best you can come up with.

Conner washing ashore is a joke. Is Distaso that ignorant that he doesn't know how a debris line is formed? Or was he intentionally giving false information to the jury? Just like he did when he characterized that storm as "a very violent storm" coinciding with an "extremeley low tide."

You made a good point that Cheng may have meant km, but you can't have it both ways. It's ridiculous to assume that he meant km in one sentence and then in the very next sentence, and every other time in his testimony, he used knots. If he did so, it was only with the intent to exaggerate the storm because 40 is a bigger number.

Nothing you have said convinces me that he was anything but intentionally misleading and grossly exaggerating both the storm and the low tide.

And nothing you've said convinces me that his PVD is good science. He didn't even use verified data and the correct NOAA station. He used the wrong starting point and the wrong time.

How you can have faith in his testimony is beyond me, except that it proves what you want to believe.

Anonymous said...

Wearing A Halo said...

Nope MN, I am not kidding, you must understand that Conner washing ashore is not a laughing matter. Also, when someone testifies it is evidence the jury can weigh in its decision. SLP had two consultants and one that would had testified that Conner was in the water for two, three or four days before being found washed up--with no question about that, but MG decided he would not want his consultant to testify to that fact and did not call him to the stand in SLP's defense. Go figure!!!

Marlene Newell said...

WAH, he said, no longer than that for being in the water exposed to the sealife, as he had no signs of animal feeding.

You put far too much faith in these experts -- especially when what they say is contradictory. Wecht also said, never in a million years did that twine "accidentally" get wrapped around his neck, and yet it never occurred to him that the baby didn't wash ashore. Go figure! Yet, the debris line and the breakwater resoundingly declare that he did not wash ashore.

I suggest you contact Lee and Wecht and ask them if they ever visited the Conner recovery site; if they ever bothered to find out what water level was produced by the high tide that morning; if they bothered to find out what the MHHW was; if they bothered to examine the body's location in relation to the breakwater; if they know how a debris line is formed; if they knew that the debris line was well-formed, unbroken, and undisturbed; and if they knew he was beyond that debris line.

BTW, I did check my court report for the 2nd day Cheng testified. This is what I recorded for his testimony about the storm's strength:

"During window of time, winds as high as 40 knots, from midnight of the 11th early morning 12th, exceeded 40 knots, sustained wind, receded down to 20 knots for another 8-10 hours."

I was typing this onto my laptop, so not catching every word, but I definitely caught the 2 uses of 40 knots and 20 knots for 8-10 hours, except I think the transcript says 12-18 hours, so I must have misunderstood him, though what I have, 8-10 hours, fits the data much better at least for gusts in the range of 20 knots, but not straight winds.

Cheng did have a chart that he was showing the jury, but that chart was not entered as an exhibit. If you can get that chart from him, I am more than willing to look at it and concede the point if it does prove his information is correct, but it has to have the source, so I can check it out. Interesting that he didn't have the chart for April 12th in his slideshow.

JackIsBack said...

There are just too many missing variables in the equation for anyone to predict with any accuracy at all as to where the bodies would wash ashore and therefore trace them back to where they were dumped.

He didn't know when they were placed in the bay, if they became lodged on something at the bottom, when it became dislodged, how much additional weight (if any) the bodies had attached to them, when and where the bodies became separated if they were attached at all.

So Cheng did lie.... because the correct answer would have been that we just don't have enough information to make any meaningful guess as to where the bodies originated from.... at best, Cheng could of offered a map with a triangular shape for each recovery site (or more then one for each body- one for each possible originating direction) where one point is at each recovery site.

If the bodies were attached and broke away at some point (another assumption) and the triangles overlap - then that overlapped area might be where they separated.... might be (everything is muddied by so many assumptions).

They can't prove any of the assumptions made... so the whole thing is just one big speculation.

Marlene Newell said...

Det. Dodge Hendee, who managed some of the pre-discovery Bay searches as well as all of the post-discovery ones, explained why Cheng was consulted. After discovery of the bodies, Hendee rejected the Ralston theory, probably because they couldn't prove Scott had the opportunity to dump Laci's pregnant body in that area and also because other sonar experts disagreed that the image was a body, so Hendee focused on the fishing route as where Laci was put and where additional evidence may still be found - such as the anchors and the missing body parts.

But he had an expert dive team from the FBI that had only a limited time to search -- I understand it was the best dive team in the country. He wanted to be able to give them a very small portion of the whole area to search, and he said that is why he had Phil Owen consult with the USGS, for help pinpointing a high probability area for the divers to search. That's what Cheng did, based on the PVD he developed.

Cheng based his PVD on wind drift, not on any science of how bodies move in water. As such, his expertise doesn't meet the Kelley-Frye standard.

But as far as the public goes, who cares where the bodies came from -- it's where they were found that matters, and they were found "exactly" where he said he went fishing. Of course, that's a typical Distaso hyperbole, but it fit the public's frame of mind.

Anonymous said...

Wearing A Halo said...

Well then Dr. Cheng mispoke when he said "40 knots" and neither the prosecution and the defense corrected him. Dr. Cheng did not lie at all, he clearly said there were variables to the exact spot and gave the probable location. What was known was the spots that Conner and Laci were found and to say that the public did not care where they came from is bad generalization. The evidence from the responding officers, the coroner's office, Dr. Peterson and Dr. Galloway pointed to Laci being in the water for months and Conner being protected for the same time. MG consulted the two of the best known criminal consultants and they both agreed with the findings. CW states on t.v. that "never in a million years" (hyperbole at its best), but I doubt he would have said that in court.

Marlene Newell said...

And just how is it that you know he "mispoke" when he said 40 knots, intending to say 40 kilometers? And, pray tell, why would he intentionally use kilometers and knots in the same paragraph, same description, same storm? Wouldn't that be misleading in and of itself?

If you insist he meant kilometers, then use kilometers for everything in his description, not for just the one instance. Changing 40 knots to 40 kilometers, and 20 knots to 20 kilometers certainly has an impact on the storm's strength.

But you can't have it both ways because it is absolutely ridiculous to say he meant 40 kilometers and in the very next sentence, meant 20 knots.

It's either kilometers or knots, not a mixture.

And you still haven't addressed the incorrect time for the high tide, or using predicted water levels instead of verified 6-minute water levels, and saying the storm coincided with an extremely low tide when in fact it coincided with the high tide.

You, and millions of Americans, fail to understand what "consistent with" means. It doesn't mean, "this is the ONLY possible explanation for what occurred." It means, "this may have occurred, it's certainly possible that this occurred."

It does not exclude other explanations. And, the sad fact of the matter is that everyone, including Geragos and his experts, labored under the mistaken assumption that Conner washed ashore. So, they offered the explanation that fit that assumption.

No one questioned that Conner washed ashore, even though objective evidence proves he did not. In fact, it's the only objective evidence in the whole case, and it was utterly, totally, irresponsibly ignored. That being Conner's location relative to that very big breakwater and his location relative to that very well-formed, unbroken, and undisturbed debris line.

To repeatedly mention that none of the experts, not even Defense experts, missed that objective evidence doesn't dismiss the evidence, it just shows their incompetence.

Now, do you want to address that objective evidence, or Cheng's "mistakes" - and again, it's objective data from the NOAA that proves they are mistakes -- or are you just going to continue with your blind faith in blind experts?

JackIsBack said...

Marlene Newell you're right... the prediction was just for coming up with the best search location and not for pinpointing where the bodies were dumped for use as proof in a court of law.

You always have to look at the other supporting evidence and then shake your head, what was the jury thinking. The twine wrapped around Conner, the fact that Conner's body was found so high up on the shore, the fact the Laci's body had too little decomposition - all over ride where the bodies were found and all eliminate Scott as the person who place them there or in the bay.

Burkey said...

WAH said: "SLP had two consultants and one that would had testified that Conner was in the water for two, three or four days before being found washed up--with no question about that, but MG decided he would not want his consultant to testify to that fact and did not call him to the stand in SLP's defense. Go figure!!!"

I'd sure like to know what that's all about.

No way were those bodies in the water from the end of Dec. to April. I'm no expert and in fact, this discussion makes my head spin. But after three point five, four months, I can't see how those bodies would be anything but completely decomposed. Especially Connor. Bag or no bag, all that time in the water, I can't see how he would be unblemished or as intact as he was.

Anonymous said...

Wearing A Halo said...

Hi Burkey, I honestly would like to know what that is all about as well in regards to SLP's expert consultants, Drs. Henry Lee and Cyril Wecht confering with SLP's lawyer MG to not testify--IMO, their testimonies would not have helped SLP because both doctors have said publically that they agree with the prosecution's witnesses, but still it would have been very interesting what they would have said under oath in SLP's defense. As for Conner, I do not think he was "unblemished or as intact" as you believe he was. Please read the testimonies of Drs. Brian Peterson and Alison Galloway and the comments said by Drs. Henry Lee and Cyril Wecht.