Forensic chemist testifies on signature dates

16th Largest Verdict in 2001

Times staff writer

An expert witness for the plaintiff testified on Tuesday at the 341st District Court that the scientific examination that he performed on a signature on a $34 million note had been signed prior to 1996.

Forensic chemist Eric Speckin told the jury that a signature by Ana Maria de la Fuente de Brittingham was placed on the $34 million promissory note and guaranty in 1996.

Ana Maria is being sued by stepdaughter Cristina Brittingham Sada de Ayala, daughter of the late Don Juan R. Brittingham, on a $34 million promissory note, which had not been paid, according to court documents.

Don Juan, a successful Mexican businessman who married Ana Maria in 1986, died Jan. 14, 1998.

Ana Maria had filled a counter suit against Cristina alleging the falsification of the promissory note and guaranty.

Speckin’s conclusion, during his testimony, did not coincide with Monday’s testimony from defense expert witness, Albert Lyter of the Federal Forensic Association Inc.

“There is no indication that the ink (signature) was put prior to 1996,” Speckin told the jury. “I didn’t find anything like, ‘this is really old.'”

During testimony, Speckin drew a diagram to demonstrate to the jury the different “drying” stages of Bic black ballpoint ink in the duration of zero to six years.

Speckin also testified that plaintiff attorney Carlos Zaffirini approached him in March. 1999 to perform examinations on the both signatures. However, Speckin did obtain enough samples at a Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico courtroom to conduct an accurate examination. Speckin also testified that he was allowed to take samples from one document only.

However, Speckin returned to Monterrey on Apr. 2000 to obtain more samples of the ink on the signatures, Speckin testified. On the second trip, he was able to obtain samples from both documents, Speckin testified.

Speckin also told the jury that Bic ink usually dries in three years. After the three years, there would be no difference in change of the ink, he testified.

However, Speckin testified that the ink on the pen was, in fact, Bic black ball point ink.

Part of Speckin’s examinations included infrared lighting, to determine the difference in chemicals used in the ink, microscopic testing and visual examination, Speckin testified.

Speckin also concluded that both documents were stored together, possibly stapled but not signed while the forms were stacked.

In other testimony, Cristina’s nephew, Daniel Milmo Brittingham, told the jury that he was present when Don Juan, his grandfather, Ana Maria Cristina and Alonso Ayala, Cristina’s husband and Eduardo Angel Marroquin convened at Cristina’s house on Nov. 28, 1996, for a meeting to discuss the $34 million promissory note.

Daniel testified, under direct examination from plaintiff co-counsel Peter Houtsma, that he saw Don Juan enter Cristina’s home with the promissory note in hand, inside a folder. Daniel also testified that the discussions of the note were held in the “TV” room at Cristina’s house.

Daniel told the jury that he had seen Ayala with a notepad, which contained written notes.

Under cross-examination by defense co-counsel Alberto Alarcon, Daniel told the jury that he had not seen the guaranty of the promissory note, in detail, until his deposition was taken at an undisclosed time.

Alarcon then asked Daniel if he knew that the account numbers, which belonged to Ana Maria’s companies, on the guaranty, did not exist on Nov. 28, 1996, the day the documents were allegedly signed.

Daniel replied that he had no knowledge of the account numbers.

Alarcon then asked Daniel if had testified, in a Mexican court, if he had any knowledge of one of Don Juan’s accounts.

Daniel testified that he did not know the names of the individuals that make up the corporation, only the shareholders.

Alarcon also asked Daniel if had also testified in a Mexican court if he had not received assets from Don Juan.

Daniel testified that he had “not received anything, personally.”

Alarcon suggested that Daniel was not coinciding with the testimony he gave to the Mexican court.

“Are you asking the jury to believe your story,” Alarcon asked Daniel.

Daniel testified that he was there to tell the jury what he had seen.

In other testimony, Raul Hernandez’ video deposition was shown to the jury. Hernandez, Don Juan’s accountant from Jan. 1, 1994 until Sept. 1998, testified in his deposition that he did not have any knowledge of the promissory note until 1999.

Hernandez testified that in 1996, Ana Maria asked him to work on her will. Hernandez testified that he told Ana Maria to include assets, personal jewelry, liabilities and debts in the will before notarizing the document.

There was no mention of owing Cristina $34 million, Hernandez testified. Hernandez also testified that he did not see any record of debt to Cristina in Ana Maria’s accounts.

16th Largest Verdict in 2001