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Focus of UCLA lab-death case turns to murder from past

The case is supposed to be about the accidental death of a UCLA lab worker in 2008. But it temporarily has focused on another death: a 1985 murder involving a methamphetamine robbery. Defense attorneys contend that occupational-safety charges against UCLA chemistry professor Patrick Harran should be dropped because a prime prosecution investigator committed a drug-related murder as a teenager
The case is supposed to be about the accidental death of a UCLA lab worker in 2008. But it temporarily has focused on another death: a 1985 murder involving a methamphetamine robbery.

Defense attorneys contend that occupational-safety charges against UCLA chemistry professor Patrick Harran should be dropped because a prime prosecution investigator committed a drug-related murder as a teenager.

Harran and the UC regents are facing charges in the death of 23-year-old Sheharbano "Sheri" Sangji, who suffered fatal burns when a experiment burst into flames in December 2008.

In recent court filings, Harran's attorney contends that Brian Baudendistel, a senior special investigator for the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, was among a group of teenagers involved in the shotgun murder of a drug dealer in January 1985 in Northern California.

As a result, Baudendistel should not be considered a credible investigator and his work in the UCLA case should be eliminated, Harran's attorneys said.

Baudendistel has denied that he is the person involved in the 1985 murder.

Harran is scheduled to be arraigned Friday after months of negotiations over a possible plea bargain.

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-- Kim Christensen

Photo: UCLA chemistry professor Patrick Harran, left, his attorney Thomas P. O'Brien, center, and Craig A. Moyer, attorney for the UC Board of Regents, in a Los Angeles courtroom in February. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

 
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