AG Cooper orders outside review of state crime lab

N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper

March 5, 2010 10:21:06 AM PST
Attorney General Roy Cooper announced Friday he has initiated an outside review of North Caroline State Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab cases and practices from the early 1990s as well as current methods.

The move comes after an SBI agent admitted during testimony at the Greg Taylor innocence hearing last month that key blood evidence was never presented to the jury that originally convicted him.

The alleged presence of blood on Taylor's truck was key to the jury finding him guilty in 1993 of the 1991 murder of Raleigh prostitute Jacquetta Thomas, 26, whose body was found dumped on South Blount Street.

"One of the jurors said that the blood on the truck was the most important thing to them when they decided it," offered Taylor defense attorney Joe Cheshire in a previous interview with ABC11.

But it turned out the substance that prosecutors said was blood wasn't. And, veteran NC State Bureau of Investigation agent Duane Deaver said that he did not turn over negative test results for Taylor's original trial. He testified what he did was standard SBI procedure.

The negative results were in Deaver's bench notes, which the defense could have subpoenaed.

SBI Director Robin Pendergraft - who was not with the agency at the time of Taylor's original trial - said the agency did not withhold key evidence, but she said policy has since changed.

"Today, we proactively push that out," SBI Director Robin Pendergraft said in a previous interview with ABC11. "We did not do that, the Bureau did not do that back in 1991 and that was not a good practice."

In February, a three judge panel hearing Taylor's case after a recommendation from the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission set him free. Friday, he filed the paperwork for a pardon and compensation from the state for the 17 years he spent in jail.

Friday, Attorney General Cooper asked Chris Swecker and Mike Wolf, both former Assistant Directors with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to head up an outside review.

Cooper said they will examine the state lab’s historic practice and policy on disclosure of lab analyses as well as its internal methods and reporting of scientific analysis.

Swecker is the former FBI Special Agent in Charge for North Carolina. Wolf previously served as FBI Special Agent in Charge for Connecticut. He led an inspection team brought in to fix problems at the FBI crime lab in 1998-1999.

Cooper said the review will run concurrently with the State Bureau of Investigation’s own internal review of current practices and policies at the crime lab.

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