Adjunct Faculty Spotlight: Patricia Dockham

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Patricia Dockham is an adjunct instructor the Physical Science Department where she currently teaches Chemistry 120 — SurPatricia Dockham copyvey of General Chemistry Laboratory. She began teaching Chemistry 130 Lecture at GRCC in August, 2011. She enjoys teaching and tutoring at the high school and college level. Both her parents were high school teachers, as were many of her aunts and uncles. Her grandfather, Verne Dockham, was a Michigan conservation officer and field guide for ornithologists who explored the habitat of the Kirtland Warbler. Learning about his service, she was motivated to pursue a career in science, research and teaching.   Patricia studied chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Nebraska where she was awarded a doctorate in Biological Science in the field of biochemistry. Currently, in addition to her work at GRCC, she tutors high school physics and chemistry for two home school groups in Kent County. She also works as a free-lance editor for Words and Numbers, a science educational service.

Dr. Dockham spends a considerable amount of time volunteering in the legal profession as a litigation preparation expert. She started volunteering as a licensed residential builder in the rough and tumble area of construction law support, and later expanded into the area of civil litigation and criminal defense. She reviews case files, court records, trial transcripts, and media reports to take a fresh look at a case, and compare hard evidence to the timeline and fluid witness testimony. Motivated to do volunteer work, in large part by GRCC’s 2014 challenge for the College’s 100 Years of Community Service, last year she took a look at the case of Michael Elliot, the Ionia 2014 Super Bowl escapee, who has long maintained his innocence in his original convictions for over 20 years.

Patricia learned that Mr. Elliot’s DNA samples were taken during the initial investigation even before his trial in 1994. Interestingly, the prosecution did not use the DNA results at trial, meaning they looked for his DNA but did not find it at the murder scene, in vehicles or at secondary crime scenes. It is often said “Absence of evidence is evidence itself”, especially DNA evidence, so a convincing argument can be made that Mr. Elliot was not at the crime scenes. An attorney statement found in a co-defendant’s file confirms how weak the case against him actually is: “As the Court is aware, there may have been some serious problems with at least one of these persons ever even being bound over on those charges….” Her special interest is in researching and providing support in innocence cases such as his, where she researches and obtains the documents that an incarcerated, but wrongly convicted individual does not have access to.

In addition to teaching, tutoring, and volunteering, Patricia enjoys gardening and caring for cats and dogs. She works with a friend who raises mastiff pups for whom she does website maintenance and advertising.

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