Authorities are once again chiding the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation’s Crime Lab for rushing to judgment. This time, however, the situation involves a very unusual suspect.
The State Human Resources Commission has overturned the SBI’s decision to fire the blood stain analyst that was such a prominent figure in the 2010 crime lab operations scandal. The commission’s decision shows that the agency did not err so much with the decision to fire Duane Deaver as much as it erred in the process.
Deaver was fired in 2011; his appeal was heard earlier this year (see our April 2014series). He argued that he had been scapegoated by the agency — his firing was meant to be a show of strength, a demonstration of the SBI’s commitment to sweeping the crime lab clean of all improper or questionable procedures and processes, past, present and future.
It was true: Deaver’s ties to two high-profile murder cases had made him one of the more recognizable faces of the scandal. The SBI cited three reasons for firing him. According to the commission, they did not add up to cause for termination. One was never proven, another had not resulted in firing for other employees, and the third was not enough on its own to warrant termination.
That’s not to say that the conduct was acceptable. The commission stated that Deaver should have been demoted with a 10 percent pay cut.
So, the commission agreed with Deaver that he should not have been fired. However, the commission agreed with the court that his conduct in Mike Peterson’s murder trial was enough to result in his firing.
The state Court of Appeals had determined in July 2013 that Deaver did overstate his qualifications to the jury in that case. The commission concluded that, had Deaver still been employed at that point, the SBI would have had ample reason to fire him.
Deaver had filed this petition because he wanted his job back. He will, indeed, be rehired, as ordered by the commission. The SBI will sign him on and pay him 18 months of back pay.
And then the SBI will fire him again, as ordered by the commission.
Source: WRAL, “State panel awards discredited SBI analyst back pay,” Cullen Browder, Nov. 7, 2014