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Attorney General Investigates North Carolina Crime Lab

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 2:05 PM
Friday, October 1, 2010

In August a report was released regarding an investigation into North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) crime lab. Two retired FBI agents were assigned to conduct the investigation following the release of Greg Taylor after he spent 16 years in prison for a crime it appears he did not commit.

Reason Magazine who first reported the story stated that, “The report found that SBI agents withheld exculpatory evidence or distorted evidence in more than 230 cases over a 16 year period. Three of those cases resulted in execution. There was widespread lying, corruption and pressure from prosecutors and other law enforcement officials on crime lab analysts to produce results that would help secure convictions.”

The 2009 National Academy of Science Report, “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward” was critical of many aspects of the current forensic sciences process reported that crime laboratories need to be independent from the direction of law enforcement.

The report went on to state that while there are many forensic field screening tests that look for the presence of blood there are many substances that will produce a false positive result for the “presence of blood”. This means that it is very important that field screening is followed up with “confirmatory” lab testing to confirm the field findings.

Agents with The News & Observer reported that, “according to the review, the cases involved SBI lab reports that were overstated, misleading or omitted important information about negative test results that would have been favorable to the defendants. The SBI’s lab work is often powerful evidence in criminal cases, shaping decisions at the heart of a defense that include decisions about plea bargaining or how to cross examine witnesses. The SBI has followed more updated procedures on blood analysis since 2003, and more recent work is not under scrutiny. The tests that are examined in the bulk of this report are no longer in use.”

According to lab notes discovered in 2009, the North Carolina Crime Lab had performed more specific tests, which registered negative results for the presence of blood when examining evidence from the Taylor case. During the hearing an analyst never mentioned those results or any additional. The analyst testified that his superiors taught him to write his reports like that.

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