During soap actress Jensen Buchanan's DUI probation violation hearing Friday, a biochemical engineering research expert claimed there was no way her ankle monitor would show an abnormal pattern of alcohol concentration levels, unless it was malfunctioning or she'd been drinking over the course of several days without sleeping.
Buchanan continued her second day of testimony at the Santa Maria Superior Court for a probation violation hearing, after authorities alleged that her SCRAM ankle monitor detected blood alcohol content levels of 0.18 between Dec. 29 and Jan. 11.
Attorneys will confirm the next court date Tuesday.
Dr. Joseph C. Anderson, researcher from the University of Washington, challenged SCRAM expert Steve Wojcik's March 2 statements about Buchanan's ankle monitor logs when he took the stand Friday. Anderson's expertise examines the way the human body physiologically moves alcohol kinetically after consumption.
"There are period of times where Buchanan's alcohol content level was stable, which is impossible as it meant she had to continuously drink nonstop for hours ... and the burn-off [metabolic] rate far exceeded the average, which isn't consistent with human physiology of alcohol," Anderson said.
When alcohol is in the blood, the alcohol circulates through the body, diffusing into tissues and different organs, then moves to the skin, he added. It then goes back to the blood stream and metabolizes before it goes to the liver, where it gets broken down by enzymes, then burned off, or eliminated.
The elimination rate for 90 percent of the population can be anywhere from .01 to .03 grams per deciliter per hour.
SCRAM officials have claimed that over the course of three weeks, Buchanan had two drinking events -- one that lasted about 60 hours and another for about 300 hours, which Anderson called physically impossible.
Buchanan's attorney Josh Lynn asked how he could explain a SCRAM reading that has an alcohol burn-off rate in the excess of 0.30, to which Anderson replied that "there are only two ways -- either SCRAM was contaminated by something else, or the device is malfunctioning."
Anderson pointed to Buchanan's SCRAM logs, dated from Dec. 22 to Jan. 15, which showed both her transdermal and blood alcohol content levels, as well as skin temperature readings. He raised many concerns for readings on Dec. 23, 24, 29, 30, 31 and again on Jan. 1, 5, 6 and 11.
On Dec. 23, Buchanan's report showed that her alcohol content level never reached the zero baseline over the course of 24 hours, Anderson said.
"Based on physiology, this is problematic because you have to reach zero at some point because of kinetics," he explained. "Alcohol burns off in 12 hours, but that's not present in this case."
Another concern he had was the fact that Buchanan's alcohol concentration level plateaued for eight hours that same day, with her transdermal level staying at 0.05, which meant "[she had] to keep replacing the alcohol when it's eliminated," he said. "You have to absorb the alcohol into your body before it even has a chance to get out."
When Lynn asked whether the similar trend was seen over the course of several days was concerning to Anderson, he replied, "absolutely," as one would not be sleeping but, rather, drinking 48 hours-straight, minute-by-minute, to maintain these levels.
Anderson also noted Buchanan's alcohol burn-off rate was three times faster than normal, indicating it was physiologically impossible for her to metabolize alcohol that fast.
On Dec. 30, Buchanan's transdermal level dropped from 0.14 to 0.06 in half an hour, an elimination rate that Anderson referred to as "completely bizarre.
That's saying she had nine cocktails, then burned it all off in half-an hour," he said. "That's not possible; your liver is only a certain size. That tells me something's wrong with the device."
During her cross-examination, prosecutor Chrystal Joseph gave a scenario to Anderson: "Someone who was to drink a couple glasses of alcohol -- the average female -- then didn't drink a few glasses for about two hours, then drank again two more glasses of alcohol, would you expect their [transdermal] level to rise and fall on a graph?" He admitted that was possible.
Joseph then asked if he could expect the absorption rate to be the same between a lifetime alcoholic versus an average female who both drank the same amount, to which he also admitted was possible.
"Do you know of studies that indicate people with a tolerance, who are alcoholics, could have a higher absorption or eliminate rate?" she asked, to which he did admit alcoholics could have a higher elimination rate as they physically could process more alcohol.
Anderson also admitted he had no knowledge of Buchanan's past drinking history.
She then pointed to Buchanan's Jan. 11 SCRAM report, which showed another peak before falling to zero since her last peak of 0.18 on Dec. 30, to which Anderson claimed was laughable, as he asked, "Who in the world could drink for 13 days straight without sleeping?"
"But one could!" Joseph insisted. "They could theoretically drink and not sleep!" to which Anderson disagreed.
"Navy Seals go through Hell Week where they go seven days not drinking and have a hard time staying awake," he replied.
"But you don't have to stay awake for [alcohol] to be processed in your body right?" Joseph pressed, to which Anderson said the transdermal level would drop when one is sleeping.
"Tell me when she's sleeping [on the graph]?" he asked, to which Joseph said nobody knew.
"You're right, that certainly is one alternative," he agreed.
This story has been updated to modify Dr. Joseph Anderson's professional title.