SBI review renews call for death penalty moratorium

August 23, 2010 12:20:13 PM PDT
Two groups called for more investigation Monday following last week's scathing report on the investigative work done by the SBI's state crime labs.

The audit revealed flawed laboratory work performed by SBI analysts in criminal cases. According to the findings, the SBI withheld evidence, which may have tainted as many as 190 cases over a 16-year time span.

Eighty of the people convicted in those cases are still in prison, four are on death row, three were executed and five died in prison.

The NAACP and the People of Faith Against the Death Penalty are just two of the organizations that participated in a joint news conference Monday in Raleigh.

The groups say the SBI review should lead to more actions by state leaders.

Backed by several death penalty opponents, NC NAACP President Reverend William Barber spoke bluntly.

He says state authorities should go beyond the SBI lab report that shows sloppy SBI lab work may have led to wrong capital crime convictions.

"We have watched several African-American men, at the last minute, be released from death row and sent out of prison doors without a dime for their time, without so much as an official apology, a collective apology, from our elected officials," Barber said Monday.

Also in attendance at Monday's news conference was Pat McCoy, the brother of murder victim Kathy McCoy. He is upset because NC Attorney General Roy Cooper announced a re-investigation of several convictions based on the lab investigation results.

"My heart goes out to victims and their families who will now have to hear that justice wasn't done, and that the case they thought was closed must be reopened," McCoy said.

He's especially worried about findings that show omission of key crime lab work during murder investigations.

McCoy says families and victims suffer as a result. "Please don't dishonor their memory by building cases based on pseudo-science, sloppy work and misconduct," he added.

FBI agents, who examined more than 15,000 cases between 1987 and 2003, found that the SBI withheld blood evidence that may have kept convicted defendants out of prison.

"The full case files of each of these cases should be reviewed by both prosecutors and appropriate defense counsel," AG Cooper said.

Barber says the findings in the report are only the beginning.

"We believe that in some ways because it's preliminary, this is only the tip of the iceberg -- he and his co-investigator audited only one of five of the SBI labs, and so there's still much more work to be done," Barber said.

Baber says he wants NC to end its death penalty policy.

"We're calling the state to reflect, to repent and then to begin a movement toward repeal and a movement toward reform," he added.

Barber and supporters of a moratorium want all six of the SBI's crime labs investigated, not only the ones that were investigated in the report.

They also want Governor Bev. Perdue to commute all death penalty sentences to life sentences while lab work for those convictions is reviewed.

Finally, the group wants does not want any additional death penalty sentences during the expanded investigation.

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