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Judge's interim role turns permanent at State Crime Lab

Posted October 7, 2011

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— Former judge Joseph R. John Sr., who has been heading up the NC State Crime Lab since last year, was named to that role permanently Friday by Attorney General Roy Cooper and SBI Director Greg McLeod.

John was an appellate and trial court judge for 25 years before he took over the lab in October 2010 after an independent report called into question hundreds of criminal cases prosecuted over a 16-year period.

In a statement issued with the announcement, McLeod and Cooper praised the work John has done in the past 12 months.

“Judge John has proven to be a strong lab director who works well with all members of the criminal justice community," McLeod said. 

“Judge John is a skillful leader who is guiding the crime lab toward the highest standards,” Cooper said. “I expect him to continue to make sure that the lab uses the latest science to pinpoint criminals and eliminate potential suspects.”

The report, issued in August 2010, found that SBI analysts in the lab's serology unit misrepresented or left out blood evidence in about 200 criminal cases from 1987 to 2003. A subsequent review under John found an additional 74 cases that are in the process of being re-evaluated.

In the weeks that followed the August report, Cooper reassigned the SBI director and named a new one, and removed the former Crime Lab director. Duane Deaver, a blood spatter analyst linked to some of the most egregious violations in the report, was fired, and three others were placed on administrative duty.

John said in August that the lab was making progress to update its standards and procedures. Under his leadership, the Crime Lab appointed an ombudsman to serve as a liaison to the criminal justice system and the public. It is increasing training for lab personnel and updating the certification of forensic scientists and the accreditation of the lab. Two independent DNA audits have affirmed that the SBI's DNA lab meets high national standards, and the lab has also posted its policies and procedures online.

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  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Oct 7, 2011

    Sounds like they put a good 'ol boy in charge of the SBI lab to continue business as usual.

  • FE Oct 7, 2011

    What am I missing here?

    Putting a judge in charge of a crime laboratory (think scientists, detailed analytical procedures, and much more) makes about as much sense as putting a chemist in charge of the State Bar.

    I'm not sure if this is a case of politics making for strange bedfellows or the Attorney General is, once again, keeping "them" (lab folks) on a short leash.

    IIRC, the current SBI Director (McLeod) has minimal prior law enforcement experience.

    FE