S.J. pathologist under fire over questionable past
Uproar could complicate murder trials

By Record Staff Writer
January 07, 2007 6:00 AM

STOCKTON - The past of forensic pathologist George Bolduc has dogged him all over the state, and now it has chased him to San Joaquin County, where he has performed autopsies on several high-profile murder cases approaching trial.

Fired from two counties - one under allegations he botched an autopsy and the other that he lied on his résumé - Bolduc has become a target for local defense attorneys who discredit him in court as a strategy to exonerate their clients.

In response to this defense tactic, San Joaquin County prosecutors have blacklisted Bolduc from testifying in court, fearing he could become a distraction from their goal of convicting killers.

Now, the forensic pathologist could complicate several upcoming murder trials about to be played out in San Joaquin County Superior Court.

Bolduc could not be reached for comment last week, but Dr. Robert Lawrence, Bolduc's boss at Stockton's Forensic Consultants Medical Group, formerly a division of Delta Pathology, defended Bolduc as a highly experienced forensic pathologist who happens to come with a few flaws.

"Dr. Bolduc does have some baggage issues," said Lawrence, who hired Bolduc about three years after Lawrence did his own background check. "I've looked into them, and they're the same that all of us in forensic pathology have."

Lawrence has testified in court that criticisms of Bolduc are "bogus" and "irrelevant," citing his employee's vast experience and training. Lawrence and Bolduc have each performed more than 9,000 autopsies in their careers, Lawrence said.

Lawrence's firm is under contract to perform all the autopsies for San Joaquin County. While Lawrence continues to do autopsies, he relies on Bolduc to shoulder some of the work.

Lawrence, who confirmed that Bolduc was fired from Kern and Sonoma counties, blamed Bolduc's troubles on working in a field dominated by detectives and prosecutors with big egos. They often think they know more about the science of autopsies than the trained forensic pathologists, he said.

According to Lawrence, a big ego - and not incompetent work - ensnared Bolduc, fired in 1996 under a Kern County detective's claim that Bolduc botched an autopsy on a baby.

In the case, Bolduc went ahead with the autopsy against the wishes of a detective who thought an evidence technician should first collect adhesive tape from the victim's face, Lawrence said.

In 2002, Bolduc was fired from Sonoma County after officials there found misstatements in his résumé. Lawrence admitted Bolduc made a mistake but minimized it saying that Bolduc "lied by omission."

Bolduc also resigned under fire from Orange County. Bolduc's credibility became an issue there, according to a 1995 California Supreme Court decision, when he formed conclusions in a murder trial from a police report rather than medical evidence.

Lawrence has tried to salvage Bolduc's reputation, writing letters to the San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office and Stanislaus County Sheriff-Coroner's Department - which both eschew Bolduc's expertise - urging them to reconsider their positions.

"They're willing to more or less trash some guy's career by saying that this guy's somehow defective," Lawrence said. "I don't believe they ever talked to the man."

None of several attorneys in the San Joaquin County Public Defender's Office contacted last week agreed to talk on the record for this story. But Bolduc became the center of attention during a recent preliminary hearing of an accused murderer.

Bolduc performed the autopsy on Lillian Best and her unborn baby. Prosecutors accuse Timon Pool of killing the pair last year in Acampo. Lawrence testified on the case last month in court instead of Bolduc, but he was reading from Bolduc's report.

Pool's court-appointed defense attorney, Elvira Lua, tried turning the focus away from Pool and onto Bolduc's reputation. Superior Court Judge Cinda Fox, nevertheless, ordered Pool to stand trial on charges of double murder.

The predicament with Pool is just what prosecutors do not want. San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Robert Himelblau said they want to avoid defending a forensic pathologist in front of a jury for mistakes he made years ago.

"Now you're selling somebody's reputation, what he did in the past and not what you're doing right now," Himelblau said. "That puts us in a very precarious situation, especially when the cases we're dealing with are very serious."

Contact reporter Scott Smith at (209) 546-8296 or ssmith@recordnet.com.