The director of the North Carolina State Crime Laboratory is letting district attorneys across the state know that some lab analysts have not passed a certification test that's required by state law.
Director Joseph John said Thursday that approximately a third of the 75 lab analysts – who test blood, DNA and other evidence in crimes – who were eligible did not pass a December certification exam that's required under state law.
They have until December to pass the test, John said, but he wants prosecutors to be aware of the matter in case defense attorneys use it to try to discredit analysts in trials.
"I have absolute faith in the quality, quantity and accuracy in the work being done here," he said.
In a memo Wednesday, John said the test results are considered confidential personnel information but that attorneys can access the information under a court order.
District Attorney Colon Willoughby said Thursday that he believes the analysts are experienced and that many have been qualified in court as experts for years.
"If there is some issue, we want to fully disclose it and make sure everybody has an opportunity to ask any questions that they need to about it," Willoughby said. "I think the issue is really a red herring."
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, whose office ultimately overseas the state crime lab, released a statement Thursday afternoon:
"We believe North Carolina is the only state in the country to require this additional test for crime lab analysts, and I’m proud of the work they do helping to solve crimes and exonerate innocent suspects."
John said the memo was intended to go out on Jan. 13, but due to what he calls an "internal communication glitch," he wasn't sure if it was ever sent.
After realizing that some prosecutors' offices might not have received the memo, he sent the new letter Wednesday.