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Insider named new chief of State Crime Lab

Posted May 28

State Crime Lab Director John Byrd

— A manager at the State Crime Lab has been selected to be the lab's next director, officials said Wednesday.

John Byrd was chosen after a national search and will assume his new office next Monday. His annual salary will be $105,000.

“Quality forensic analysis is more important than ever for solving crimes and ensuring justice,” Attorney General Roy Cooper said in a statement. “I expect John Byrd to make sure that North Carolina’s Crime Lab continues to meet the highest standards and use the latest science to pinpoint criminals and clear suspects.”

Byrd is a forensic scientist manager at the crime lab, with 20 years of experience in forensic biology, latent evidence and digital evidence. He oversaw the merger of the digital and latent evidence sections, installed robotics for faster DNA analysis, reduced processing time for forensic biology cases by 56 percent and split the forensic biology section from the DNA database section.

He will succeed Joe John, a retired appellate and trial court judge with 25 years of experience on the bench who served as acting and then permanent director of the Crime Lab for three and a half years. John, who earned $84,860 a year as director, will continue to work with the lab as a legal consultant.

The crime lab came under fire in 2010 after an independent review showed that analysts misrepresented or left out blood evidence in hundreds of criminal cases from 1987 to 2003.

In addition to supervising day-to-day lab operations, John headed a legal review and made significant improvements to ensure confidence in the lab’s work, including accreditation under stringent new international standards.

Byrd will work closely with the Forensic Science Advisory Board, a group of scientists and forensic experts who meet quarterly to review the lab’s methods and make recommendations.

“John Byrd is a true public servant who will be able to continue the positive changes at the State Crime Lab,” Kermit Channell, II, chairman of the board and Executive Director of the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, said in a statement. “His tenure at the lab and in the National Guard give him the experience needed to be a strong and encouraging leader for North Carolina’s forensic scientists.”

Byrd also serves as assistant adjutant general of the North Carolina National Guard.

A graduate of Campbell University, he taught biology in Franklin County schools before joining the crime lab in 1994.

The crime lab operates a main facility in Raleigh and satellite labs in Asheville and Greensboro. Its 124 analysts worked more than 44,000 cases during the 2012-13 fiscal year.

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  • maybetoolatedixon2 May 29, 8:16 a.m.

    I have, in the past, worked with this person quite a bit. He is, without a doubt, the worst choice. He is a great politician but never did what he stated that he would do. The only thing that Jbird and I agree on is that neither one of us care for Roy Cooper.

  • ALLIN May 28, 6:47 p.m.

    Keeping a fox in the chicken coop.

  • uBnice May 28, 5:58 p.m.

    Almost surprised it was not another lawyer.

    Sounds like a good choice. I wish him well.

  • jrfergerson May 28, 1:38 p.m.

    No more a deserving person than John Byrd - Congratulations Sir.

  • scubagirl2 May 28, 12:44 p.m.

    Hope he does his position proud! He's got a steep hill to climb to get over past ineptitudes but glad it was someone from within.