The Raleigh News & Observer won a national award for its investigative report about the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab. The multi-part story, published in 2010, was riveting, and it led to major changes at the SBI.
An independent review of the crime lab’s work followed the News & Observer series, and that review identified about 200 cases that had been mishandled. One analyst in particular was linked to some of the most troublesome violations. For example, the analyst reported that there was evidence of blood when follow-up tests showed that not to be true. Two notorious cases came up for review as a result of the review; both were murder cases, and both cases had ended in convictions for the defendants.
Michael Peterson was the defendant in one of the cases. Peterson was tried in 2003 for his wife’s murder. He won a new trial based on the results of the case review, though the trial has not yet been scheduled. Another man was exonerated when the review uncovered serious flaws in blood evidence that helped to convict him and that was relied on when he went before the state’s Innocence Inquiry Commission. He spent 17 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.
The analyst, Duane Deaver, was fired. He now claims he was a scapegoat for a flawed system, that he was merely doing what he was told, and he wants his job back. He did not testify at a hearing on the matter at the beginning of April, but the press did obtain the transcript of a deposition he had given earlier in the case.
Deaver worked for the SBI for almost 25 years. During that time, he became an in-house expert on blood stain analysis. In his deposition, he pointed to glowing performance reviews and denied the allegations made by the SBI when they fired him.
The agency claimed Deaver was fired for violations of the SBI’s policies and procedures. The same Innocence Inquiry Commission hearing mentioned above came up again: The commission alleged he had intentionally misled the panel. The SBI later found the allegation to be unsubstantiated.
There were other infractions. We’ll get into them in our next post.
WRAL, “Fired SBI analyst: ‘I have done nothing wrong’,” Cullen Browder, April 9, 2014
ABC Local/WTVD, “SBI director testifies in Deaver hearing,” Ed Crump, April 3, 2014