In our last post, we were discussing the progress made by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation’s efforts to implement changes promised by leadership following an investigative news story and an audit last summer. It will come as no surprise to many criminal defense lawyers that progress has been minimal.
SBI and crime lab leadership say that many planned steps forward have been stalled by technology issues and budget concerns. The search for a permanent lab director is under way but moving forward very slowly, according to reports.
Other promised reforms are moving ahead slowly, too — action on the serology section audit results, for example. Leadership promised to move ahead on all of the auditor’s recommendations, including the appointment of an ombudsman to handle complaints about the agency’s work. The position has not been filled.
The agency also committed to conducting two section audits, using them as pilot audits to determine if the entire lab audit could be feasible and useful. Just one unit so far, the DNA (or Forensic Biology) Section, has been tapped for an audit, and that has not been completed yet. The interim director said his priorities lie with the DNA section and drug chemistry unit. Those two units handle the most cases and have the most employees.
Critics, defense lawyers among them, continue to say that a full audit is necessary. First and foremost, there are people in prison who may not have committed any crime. It does beg the question, according to one particularly outspoken critic, of why the SBI would not want a full-scale audit. Perhaps, he posits, they are afraid of what they’ll find.
Resource: Charlotte (NC) Observer “Progress Is Slow on Pledge to Fix SBI” 12/5/10