Citing concerns about the time commitment the job requires, the interim director of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation crime lab resigned this week. His decision was a blow to the agency as it struggles to reorganize, retrain and rebuild its reputation. As we’ve discussed in past posts, the SBI crime lab came under fire this summer when a Raleigh newspaper reported that the crime lab’s policies and procedures were substandard and that lab personnel had even withheld test results favorable to the defense.
The 70-year-old former judge was appointed by the attorney general early in September to head up the crime lab during the retooling process. Representatives from the attorney general’s office stated they were frustrated by the interim director’s resignation but emphasized that a replacement will come on board quickly and that SBI leadership will continue to manage the day-to-day work and the revamping of the lab.
On the same day as the resignation, the members of a legislative panel met with SBI crime lab personnel to review the results of an internal report on blood analysis practices and results. An independent report had concluded that the crime lab’s testing of DNA, blood and other human material was shoddy and had showed a high risk for inaccuracy. According to a member of the panel, the crime lab seems better equipped to ensure accurate results now.
The report to the panel examined how blood tests had been conducted and reported from 1987 to 2003. The legislator commented that the findings gave him a “better certainty and confidence level” in the work done today. He specifically cited advances in technology and protocol that would reduce the risk of inaccurate results.
Still, the SBI report recommended review of 190 cases. According to the report, the results of blood tests in these cases were omitted by the analyst or unclear. Prosecutors moved forward with incomplete information as they pressed charges. (The newspaper series that brought the problems at the crime lab to the attention of legislators had found evidence of these omissions as well.)
While the head of the legislative panel was pleased with the SBI report results, he said there are still questions that need to be answered. Standards and protocols have changed since 2003, but whether the lab is complying with them must still be addressed.
SBI representatives reiterated their commitment to reform. No information was given on how quickly the 190 cases will be reviewed.
The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer “Glazier: Crime Lab Still Needs Testing Improvements” 9/30/10
WRAL.com “Interim Chief of SBI Crime Lab Backs Away from Job” 9/30/10