Toilet Test Contentious Issue in Wisconsin Slaying Case

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MADISON, Wisconsin—Douglas Plude is accused by prosecutors to have murdered his 28-year-old wife once he learned that she was planning on leaving him. They say that he poisoned her with a migraine headache drug and, while she was vomiting, pushed her head into a toilet, eventually leading to her death by drowning. Plude, 42, was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide in 2002. The Wisconsin Supreme Court got rid of the conviction last year, after an expert witness conducted the first round of toilet tests. After it was learned that the expert exaggerated on his experience, the court reopened the trial and Plude is expected to be tried for the homicide a second time in October.

The Vilas County district attorney plans on gathering numerous volunteers in their study of controversial tests designed to prove that Plude is guilty in the drowning homicide. The district attorney is looking for female volunteers who are about 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighing about 140 pounds, and are willing to stick their heads in a toilet. These credentials match the late Genell Plude of Land O’Lakes, and are designed to detect whether Plude’s story is plausible.

Plude says that his wife was depressed and she committed suicide by taking the pills herself and then drowned. He claims that he tried to perform CPR once he found his wife slumped over the toilet unresponsive.

An expert witness, Saami Shaibani, was called upon by prosecutors and he said based on his test results involving volunteers positioned at a toilet, Genell Plude could not have inhaled toilet water on her own and someone must have forced her head into the water. He also claimed that Plude has to be lying about the position he claimed he found his wife in.

Defense lawyers from across the country mock Shaibani’s test results, including North Carolina Lawyer David Rudolf. “He had women sticking their heads in toilets!” he said. “That’s just not science. How do you peer review that? How do you test his conclusions?”

A new trial for Plude was called for after the state high court discovered that Shaibani had lied about being a clinical associate professor at Temple University who taught physicians and surgeons there about injuries. He had no relationship with Temple except having parking privileges.

Christopher Damm of the Milwaukee School of Engineering has been hired by Vilas County District Attorney Al Moustakis in order to conduct a second round of tests. The allowance to test the toilet by a floor display of the bathroom in the court’s custody was granted by Judge Neal Nielsin III last month.

“The testing is likely to be the same type of testing that Shaibani did,” Moustakis said.

 

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