North Carolina Attorney General Responds to State Crime Lab Story - Sparrow Law Firm

A story from last Sunday’s Charlotte Observer sharply criticized the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) for failing to enact reforms promised by North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.

In response to this and other criticism, Attorney General Cooper removed the head of the SBI and promised to appoint new leadership in the form of a lab chief with strong science background. Cooper promised an ombudsman to field complaints about the SBI’s tactics from the public and defense attorneys. He also promised transparency for the bureau by posting policies and training manuals online and available to the public. Finally, criminal defense attorneys were to have more access to lab analysts and their reports.

The article published by the Observer on August 7 asserts that these promises have not been fulfilled. The article cited that a year later, the lab is still being run by a former judge on a temporary contract. No offers to candidates found by a search committee have been made. The ombudsman appointed last January stepped down in June. Defense attorneys are reporting they are having more difficulty getting access to lab assistants.

Attorney General Cooper wrote a letter to the editor of the Charlotte Observer in response to the accusatory story. The Attorney General claims the SBI is aggressively making improvements. He claims all the changes he ordered have been made, with one exception.

Cooper claims there is good reason that he has not hired a new chief of the lab. He says the outside search committee, comprised of prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, law enforcement and others, is still searching for a candidate who is a “consensus choice.”

Cooper asserts, “The lab and its dedicated analysts and agents are solving crimes, eliminating innocent suspects, opening up their operations and protecting the public like never before,” in his letter to the editor. He is confident the SBI is aggressively implementing all ordered changes, in spite of budget cuts.

Source: The Charlotte Observer, “SBI, crime lab leaders aggressively making improvements,” Aug. 10, 2011