Afraid of What They’ll Find? Sbi Reforms Stall

in Criminal Defense, on

The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab had followed policies and indulged in practices that a Raleigh newspaper and an independent auditor found were unethical, scientifically unsound, biased or all three. Leadership promised immediate action and swift change when the story broke last August. Defense lawyers were skeptical, and for good reason, it turns out.

The process has taken longer than expected because of technical issues and budget constraints, according to SBI leadership. And, while there is a new SBI director, the crime lab is on its second interim director, with the search for a permanent replacement moving at a snail’s pace. Still, leadership insists that reforms are under way.

The interim director of the crime lab says their top priority is to ensure that the policies and procedures followed in each of the lab’s six units are legally compliant. To date, the reviewers have only looked at the drug chemistry unit.

The second priority, according to the interim director, is to strengthen the lab’s standards, bringing them into accord with the most rigorous international standards. It’s a tall order, he said, and will take some time.

SBI leadership had also promised to take steps toward making agency operations more transparent. The first step was to have been posting lab policies on the department’s internet site. The original target date was September. The new target date is April 1. However, while SBI claims technology issues for the delay, they have no such excuse for the decision only to post current policies — that is, the revised policies, not the policies that have been at the root of so many problems in the lab, not to mention a handful of prisoners wondering about the evidence that got them convicted.

Continued in our next post.

Resource: Charlotte (NC) Observer “Progress Is Slow on Pledge to Fix SBI” 12/5/10