Fired SBI analyst: 'I have done nothing wrong'
Posted April 8, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — A blood analyst fired from the state crime lab three years ago didn't testify last week during a three-day hearing on his dismissal, but in a 183-page deposition he gave last fall to state attorneys, he maintained that he didn't deserve to lose his job.
Duane Deaver is appealing his January 2011 termination in the state's Office of Administrative Hearings. The deposition is one piece of evidence that Administrative Law Judge James Conner will consider before issuing his decision.
In his nearly 25-year career at the State Bureau of Investigation, Deaver went from being a rising star – he was the go-to guy for blood stain analysis – to being a lightning rod, the symbol of a system accused of withholding evidence.
A 2010 independent review of the crime lab concluded that SBI analysts had frequently misstated or falsely reported blood evidence in about 200 criminal cases during a 16-year period ending in 2003. Some of the most egregious violations found were linked to Deaver.
Deaver's lawyers argue that the SBI made him a scapegoat while the agency was under legislative and public scrutiny for the policies and procedures of the state crime lab, noting that SBI officials never included those allegations in their decision to fire him.
The agency cited the following findings to determine that he had violated agency policies:
- The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission accused him of intentionally misleading the panel during a 2009 hearing on Greg Taylor, who was later determined to have been wrongly convicted in a Raleigh murder case.
- At the end of a 2009 video demonstration of blood spatter analysis in a case, he said, "That's a wrap, baby."
- While on leave in late 2010 while the SBI investigated questions of his performance raised in the outside review of the crime lab, he didn't notify his superiors or seek their approval before assisting a criminal profiler in filing a formal complaint against a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division agent who was providing a profile in a western North Carolina case.
Deaver said in the deposition that he was shocked when he was placed on leave in 2010, saying that he was only doing his job as he was trained to do. He went on at length about the glowing performance reviews he received but acknowledged he also received some minor verbal reprimands.
When Special Deputy Attorney General Charles Whitehead asked whether Deaver would be able to fulfill his responsibilities as an SBI agent, including testifying in court, if he were reinstated, Deaver remained steadfast.
"You don't think that, rightfully or wrongfully, your reputation in the community may keep you from doing that job?" Whitehead asked.
"No, sir," Deaver replied.
"Do you think that the SBI, based on what information has come out, could rely on you as an expert witness in a case?" Whitehead asked.
"I can't say what the SBI can do or couldn't do. I can't say what a judge would say or wouldn't say, but my conscience is clear, sir, and I can get on the stand and testify," Deaver said.
Whitehead continued, "My question is from the perspective of your employer. Could they employ someone who they couldn't put on the stand as an expert witness based on his reputation in the community?"
"Let me answer that this way. The SBI and the Department of Justice knows very well that I have done nothing wrong, and so they should be able to do that," Deaver said.
He insisted in the deposition that he never lied to the Innocence Inquiry Commission in the Taylor hearing, and an internal SBI report – administrators signed off on the report the same day that Deaver was fired – found the perjury allegation to be unsubstantiated.
He also disputed court rulings that he misled jurors in the 2003 murder trial of Mike Peterson.
Peterson, a novelist and one-time Durham mayoral candidate, was granted a new trial in late 2011 in the death of his wife a decade earlier. A Superior Court judge and the state Court of Appeals determined that Deaver's exaggeration of his expertise and his overstatement of the accuracy of his blood-spatter tests denied Peterson's right to a fair trial.
"I guess whether you agree with these findings or not that these are Court of Appeals opinions in the state of North Carolina, that this is the facts as the Court of Appeals has found them to be and the findings of law that they've determined based on those facts," Whitehead said.
"I have to tell you that I haven't read who testified to these things, and I can tell you for absolute certainty that most of that is wrong," Deaver said. "Whoever testified to it, I'll have to look at that when the time comes, and maybe I'll get a chance to refute those things. That's all I can tell you."
In addition to reinstatement to his former job, Deaver is seeking back pay and benefits he believes he is entitled to receive. He noted in the deposition that his family and friends are helping pay his legal fees and that he worked at a $9-an-hour job at an AgriSupply store after he was fired. He now works in the hospital supplies and services business in Texas.