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SBI Crime Lab Gets Another New Interim Director

Attorney General Roy Cooper has appointed another former court of appeals judge to head the state's embattled crime lab on an interim basis. A few weeks ago, the last judge appointed to the position decided he couldn't commit the time it required. WFAE's Julie Rose reports Raleigh Judge Joe John will step in: The search continues for a permanent director for the SBI Crime Lab. Ideally it will be someone with a strong background in science, says Greg McLeod, who leads the entire SBI. But in the short-term, McLeod says the skills of a judge are what the crime lab needs. "A big part of his focus is the legal review," says McLeod. "He'll lead the team of lawyers that are working through the sections of the lab reviewing the policies and procedures and practices." The new interim director of the crime lab - Joe John - is a former North Carolina Court of Appeals Judge, a prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney. "Not only does he bring tremendous legal experience to the table, his judicial temperament and talent brings the independence and thoroughness to ask the right questions," says McLeod. The legal review Judge John will oversee at the lab was prompted by a recent audit that found analysts sometimes misrepresented or withheld blood evidence in more than 200 cases. At least one instance led to the 17-year imprisonment of an innocent man. All of the cases happened before 2003 and McLeod says those practices are in the past, but, "clearly we have work to do to bolster public confidence in the crime lab and in the SBI." That'll be another large part of Judge Joe John's role as interim director of the crime lab. He'll be paid up to $77,000 a year for his work, according to a spokeswoman for the Attorney General's office. McLeod says there's no timeline set for when a permanent crime lab director will be hired.