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NC officials defend firing of SBI analyst

Posted April 3

Duane Deaver listens to testimony on April 2, 2014, during an administrative hearing to determine whether he can reclaim his job at the state crime lab. The State Bureau of Investigation fired him in January 2011 for violations of agency policy.

— State Bureau of Investigation director Greg McLeod said Thursday that a blood analyst was fired from the state crime lab three years ago for unprofessional conduct and violations of agency policy.

The analyst, Duane Deaver, is appealing his January 2011 termination in the state's Office of Administrative Hearings.

SBI officials cited three findings in the decision to fire Deaver:

  • 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 an outside review of the state 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.

Although an internal committee handling Deaver's grievance over his firing later determined that he should be reinstated, McLeod refused to do so. On Thursday, he outlined his belief that the committee understated the severity of the allegations against Deaver.

The credibility of a law enforcement officer is critical to being able to carry out his or her job, McLeod said, so the "unprecedented" perjury allegation raised a major red flag for him.

"A judicial tribunal said they believed Mr. Deaver made false statements and misled them," McLeod said. "It was a much more serious matter than what's provided in the notes here."

Kristi Jones, chief of staff at the state Department of Justice, who upheld Deaver's firing, likewise disagreed with grievance committee's findings that Deaver be reinstated and said there was just cause for his dismissal.

"It was pretty serious," Jones said of the potential contempt charge against Deaver for possible perjury. "It was more that a mere allegation."

Deaver's comment in the 2009 video went beyond being unprofessional, McLeod said, calling it "embarrassing."

Regarding Deaver's participation in the complaint against the South Carolina agent, McLeod said Deaver not only didn't notify his superiors about the move, he also provided confidential information from an SBI investigation to an outside group.

Although the committee determined that Deaver was authorized to share SBI files with the profiler, Jones said Deaver's request that his name be kept out of the complaint suggested he knew his actions were inappropriate.

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.

A 2010 independent review of the crime lab concluded that SBI analysts had 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.

Randy Myers, a former SBI agent who investigated the perjury allegation, said that he thought Deaver was unfairly singled out, but he stopped short of saying that the agency planned to push him out.

"My impression was somebody was loading up on this man," Myers testified.

Myers' investigation found that some members of the Innocence Inquiry Commission didn't believe Deaver perjured himself, and at least one couldn't even remember what Deaver said to prompt a defense attorney to make the initial accusation. He said he personally didn't think there was any perjury – the defense attorney could have been more precise in his questioning, he said – and he was stunned when the commission sought a contempt hearing in the case.

"I thought, 'Are you crazy?'" he said when a commission staffer told him about the contempt hearing.

On Wednesday, former SBI director Robin Pendergraft said she believed the perjury allegation needed to be investigated more before any action was taken against Deaver. She said she didn't believe either of the other two reasons cited for Deaver's termination was a firing offense.

Both McLeod and Jones testified that, if Administrative Law Judge James Conner determines that Deaver was unjustly fired, he shouldn't be reinstated, citing court rulings that found Deaver misled jurors in Mike Peterson's 2003 murder trial.

Peterson, a novelist and one-time Durham mayoral candidate, was granted a new trial in 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.

Similar to the questions surrounding the perjury allegations before the Innocence Inquiry Commission, McLeod and Jones said Deaver's actions in the Peterson case would justify his dismissal from the SBI.

15 Comments

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  • jhk0704 Apr 4, 12:04 p.m.

    Why has he not yet been charged with perjury? Sorry but it is against the law to lie in court... View More

    — Posted by sunshine1040

    100% agree. This man lied and cost people years of their lives. He should pay the same fate. He obviously perjured himself and misled court officials and jurors about the facts. If your lies or exaggerations cost someone years of their life unjustly then you should server the same time they did

  • JustOneGodLessThanUU Apr 3, 6:25 p.m.

    "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."

    That right there is going to cost the taxpayers a lot of money to retry Peterson. It's indefensible. IMO this man does not need to be working in the SBI lab anymore.

  • sunshine1040 Apr 3, 6:04 p.m.

    Why has he not yet been charged with perjury? Sorry but it is against the law to lie in court after you swore to tell the whole truth.

  • astonished Apr 3, 4:37 p.m.

    OBJECTIVE SCIENTIST: "he reported having found blood in initial examination of evidence... but follow up examination - done by Deaver - found that it was NOT blood - which benefited the defendant. In those cases - as I recall - Deaver failed to report that to the prosecution, or to anyone."

    You call yourself a scientist, but your mischaracterization of these results shows you know nothing about them. The first test was presumptory, meaning if positive the substance may be blood, if negative the substance is not blood. The second test was confirmatory, meaning if positive the substance is blood, if negative the substance MAY not be blood. A "negative" result for the second test does NOT mean the substance is not blood. There may be too little of an amount to register positive, the blood may be degraded or contaminated OR the substance may not be blood. Besides, ALL test results were in Deaver's notes, otherwise how would they know about them? But people love to believe the worst...

  • disgusted2010 Apr 3, 3:00 p.m.

    The fact that they are trying to make so much out of the comment "that's a wrap baby" as being... View More

    — Posted by Wake1

    That is an easy question to answer. One was just a mistake in which a tragedy happened. The... View More

    — Posted by A person

    I love how the posters on this board have tried and convicted Deaver of lying when no evidence... View More

    — Posted by disgusted2010

    He does not get those protections because he is not charged with a crime. Unlike those he help... View More

    — Posted by yellow_hat

    I am surely glad that you are not in a position of authority after making a statement like that. That type of thinking should have gone away with the defeat of the nazis in 1945

  • djofraleigh Apr 3, 2:57 p.m.

    I think this man is as honest as any other. He has been persecuted, for sure. Deaver is truly a scapegoat for whatever, whenever the SBI failed. There is a defense of his actions when viewed by the standards of the time he acted. Blood splatter, teeth mark evidence that once was thought science, is now disputed. Even if rehired, as the government claims, he will not have credibility as a witness. Maybe they will rehire him and let him retire. Bottom line, justice is a flawed even for an SBI agent.

  • disgusted2010 Apr 3, 2:57 p.m.

    Hmmm... what was the "pattern" in Deaver's work and findings? Did it most often benefit the... View More

    — Posted by Objective Scientist

    You do realize that all reports by SBI chemists and analysts are reviewed by supervisors prior to being released. Don't blame the person who wrote the report based on policy and procedure, blame the supervisors who allowed it to proceed.

    One issue here is that higher ups in the SBI and Attorney General's office made these policies and procedures and approved these reports worded as they were. There has been little to no ink expended on "outing" these supervisors, managers and bureaucrats and no acceptance of responsibility by these persons. Deaver is and has been a scapegoat in this matter partially to cover his bosses and partially because he has testified against criminals with powerful attorneys and support bases.

    Hopefully the truth will come out; however, the little bit of testimony I have observed today the AG's office and SBI senior management is circling the wagons around themselves.

  • yellow_hat Apr 3, 2:39 p.m.

    The fact that they are trying to make so much out of the comment "that's a wrap baby" as being... View More

    — Posted by Wake1

    That is an easy question to answer. One was just a mistake in which a tragedy happened. The... View More

    — Posted by A person

    I love how the posters on this board have tried and convicted Deaver of lying when no evidence... View More

    — Posted by disgusted2010

    He does not get those protections because he is not charged with a crime. Unlike those he help wrongly convicted, he is in no danger of losing his liberty. He lost a job. He lied and told half-truths - there is no disputing that if you have been following this story. People are fired every day for much less, or for no reason at all. Personally I think he should be in jail for fraud.

  • AConservativePerson Apr 3, 2:19 p.m.

    If you cannot trust the work of the analyst, why keep him on payroll? Nobody would believe anything out of Deaver's mouth as the truth if he were to testify.

  • Objective Scientist Apr 3, 2:17 p.m.

    Hmmm... what was the "pattern" in Deaver's work and findings? Did it most often benefit the prosecution or the defendant? I recall instances in which he reported having found blood in initial examination of evidence... but follow up examination - done by Deaver - found that it was NOT blood - which benefited the defendant. In those cases - as I recall - Deaver failed to report that to the prosecution, or to anyone. Prosecutors and police striving to convict as many as possible may like that he did not... but if you are interested in "justice" and/or you ARE the defendant - you are horrified that such exculpatory evidence is NOT reported!

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