Audit Documents 230 Cases Of Flawed Work At SBI Crime Lab
A review of the state Bureau of Investigation has found 230 examples of flawed work in the agency's crime lab. WFAE's Greg Collard reports. Attorney General Roy Cooper ordered the review in March, not long after the state's Innocence Inquiry Commission ruled that Wake County resident Greg Taylor did not commit a murder for which he served 17 years in prison. The SBI failed to disclose key evidence in that case. And, according to the report released Wednesday, crime lab analysts failed to include key evidence in at least 230 cases between 1987 and 2003. While positive tests for blood were included in analyst's final reports, "negative confirmatory tests for the presence of blood were not reported," says Chris Swecker, a Charlotte attorney and former FBI agent who co-authored the report. In some cases, crime lab analysts wrote they didn't perform additional tests when in fact they had. And in those cases, the results would have favored defendants. "From the perspective of the defendant, if I were on trial for my life, I would want to know if this information is favorable to me and not so favorable to the prosecution. So yes, it's particularly disturbing that vital information was not included in the reports." Swecker and another former FBI agent, Mike Wolf, reviewed more than 15,000 cases. Those cases included the same type of blood tests as were used to help convict Greg Taylor. SBI blood analyst Duane Deaver failed to disclose key evidence that could have led to Taylor's acquittal. Deaver also performed the blood analysis in the five cases that Swecker and Wolfe's audit found the most troubling. The SBI suspended Deaver late Wednesday afternoon. Overall, 269 people were charged in the 230 cases in which problems were found (no one was charged in 40 of those cases). Eighty are still in prison, including four on death row. Three have been executed. Seth Edwards, a prosecutor in Eastern North Carolina and the president of the state conference of District Attorneys, calls the report troubling. "The thing that surprised me the most would be the number of cases that review ers found to be at issuem," Edwards says. But Edwards says the findings don't mean the defendants are innocent. In many cases, Edwards says the evidence may not have been important for a conviction. We'll find out. All the cases will now go through further review to see if more innocent people like Greg Taylor were wrongly convicted.