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SBI agent: No 'scientific certainty' about blood test results in Taylor case

Posted February 12, 2010

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— A former prostitute and a State Bureau of Investigation agent testified Friday during a hearing that could exonerate a man convicted of murder nearly 17 years ago.

A three-judge panel appointed by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission will decide if there is enough new evidence to reverse Gregory Taylor's conviction in the stabbing and beating death of 26-year-old Jacquetta Thomas on Sept. 26, 1991.

Raleigh police arrested and charged Taylor and his friend, Johnny Beck, with murder less than 12 hours after an officer found Thomas' body in a cul-de-sac on South Blount Street. Charges against Beck were dismissed, but Taylor was convicted in April 1993 and sentenced to life in prison.

In September, the Innocence Commission, which investigates and evaluates post-conviction claims of innocence and evidence not considered at trial, decided that there was enough evidence to warrant a review of Taylor's case.

Key witness defends testimony in Taylor trial Key witness defends testimony in Taylor trial

On Friday afternoon, SBI assistant special agent-in-charge Duane Deaver testified about reporting the results of blood tests he did on evidence. Positive results for blood on Taylor's SUV were presented at his trial.

Deaver acknowledged Friday that, while initial tests on some items from Taylor's SUV were positive for blood, follow-up tests were negative. Given the contradictory test results, Deaver said he could not say with "scientific certainty" that there was blood on Taylor's truck.

His bench notes noted the negative results, but his formal lab report did not. Deaver said that SBI guidelines required him to report the presence of blood if any of three tests came back positive.

Reading the report, only someone who "understood the language" would know if there were also negative results, he said. Wake County Assistant District Attorney Tom Ford, who originally prosecuted Taylor, did not ask if there were negative results, and Deaver said he was not called to testify at the trial.

"I wrote the report, and it's used the way it's used," Deaver said.

SBI officials are trying to find the policy on lab reports that would have been in place in the early 1990s, said Noelle Talley, spokeswoman for the state Attorney General's Office.

Earlier Friday, the defense called as its final witness Rose Hitch, who once worked as a prostitute under the name Eva Marie Kelly. She has since married and changed her name.

At Taylor's 1993 trial, Hitch testified that she saw Taylor twice: once, with a black man when they tried to pick her up on the street; then, later that night, with Thomas in the kitchen at Hitch's residence.

Hitch told the judges Friday that a black man and white man pulled up in an SUV while she stood outside her rooming house on East Street. They tried to pick her up, but she turned them down and waited for a friend.

Hitch said that later, she and her friend encountered a woman she called Jackie with a black man and white man standing around the kitchen table, which was covered with drugs. Hitch said her friend left because of that, and she yelled at the people to leave. They left by separate doors, but from a side window, she saw Jackie get in the men's pickup truck, Hitch said.

Defense attorney Joseph Cheshire pressed Hitch to admit inaccuracies in what she testified at trial and told police investigators and the Innocence Commission at different times.

Hitch acknowledged that she wasn't sure if all her testimony, particularly the time line, was accurate. "Times I'm confused on, because I never kept track of time then," she said.

Cheshire suggested that it could have been a different woman whom Hitch saw in the kitchen – another prostitute also named Jackie or Barbara Ray, who testified Thursday that she was in the kitchen with Taylor in the early morning. Thomas would have been dead by that time, he said.

But Hitch insisted that her trial testimony was "truthful" and remained firm that it was Thomas she saw in the kitchen.

"I believe it to be Jackie," she said.

Cheshire also noted that in exchange for her testimony, Hitch received a shortened prison sentence for probation violations. Ford said that Hitch agreed to testify before being told her sentenced would be shortened.

Cheshire asked Hitch, "Would you bet 17 years of your life in prison on your recollection?"

"No," Hitch whispered.

The judges do not expect to make a decision before next Wednesday.

If Taylor is found not guilty, he would be the first person freed by work by the Innocence Commission. It was established in 2007 and has received nearly 500 applications from inmates.

42 Comments

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  • simoncampbell51 Feb 15, 2010

    I got two words for the DA's office.... MIKE NIFONG.

  • gandalla Feb 12, 2010

    Question? Did everyone forget that Craig Taylor confessed to the murder in writing and on video apologizing to Greg furthermore enlightening authorities as to what the murder weapon was as well as particulars of the crime that were not mentioned in the original trial or released to the press.
    missyesmaam

    1. How did you find out about this if the information was never released?
    2. We all know COPS arent above beating a confession out of someone

  • missyesmaam Feb 12, 2010

    Question?
    Did everyone forget that Craig Taylor confessed to the murder in writing and on video apologizing to Greg furthermore enlightening authorities as to what the murder weapon was as well as particulars of the crime that were not mentioned in the original trial or released to the press.

  • pbjbeach Feb 12, 2010

    There is no such thing as real fair an just justice in this state . In my own personal opinion the north carolina attorneys generals office is a total joke an the DA'S are only concerned with their conviction rates an not one bit concerned with finding the real truth of a matter an as to who is really the guilty one in a crime as long as they can latch on to someone to blame it on an lock them away to help their conviction rates just so as to make the public appearance of actually acheiving justice from the court system . The north carolina attorneys general office need to be totaly cleaned out an started over again especially when citizen rerport the crime of fraud within a state agency to them an they refuse to take any form of actions to put a stop to it. just another example of fraud an corruption in state government if you ask me , just look at the number of inconce people that have been recently released from prisons for worngful convictions in this state an the number of death

  • pbjbeach Feb 12, 2010

    In my personal opinion the entire justice system within the state of north carolina from the DA'S across this state to the SBI. to the judges to the fbi or eventhe ncattorneys generals office they are all a total disgrace to what is supposely to be a fair system of justice but it is instead a total joke of what justice is supposely to be under the U.S CONSTITUATION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. It appears to be the only things that they care about are their conviction rates an not real just justice for the guilty an the freedom of the realy not guilty. Just stop an consider the number of people across this state that have been sencented to long jail terms or a death sentence only later to be found totaly innocenent an released from prisons due to an because of D.N.A. testing results. I personaly an in favor of justice butthe procutors an the assistate

  • DocZ Feb 12, 2010

    So Beck and Taylor were concerned that they might get in trouble if they reported seeing the body that night? Looks like they were right. There's not a bit of the manufactured evidence that would have been any different if they had done so. The DA would still have concealed the actual blood test results, the tracking dog would still have failed to connect the car to the body (but it would have been presented as a "positive link between the body and vechicle"), and the jailhouse snitch and prostitute would still have sold false testimony for reductions in sentences. If I ever get in a similar situation where I come across the evidence of a crime, I'm going to just keep walking and keep my mouth shut. Based on the fact that Taylor was sentenced to life and Beck was set free (after many, many months in the Wake County jail), it looks like I'd have about a 50% chance of escaping the DA's "justice". I'm totally ashamed of the conduct of the DA's office.

  • Hans Feb 12, 2010

    "The only thing I will say is that if you have a bad LEO it can ruin your life."

    - or end it.

  • Hans Feb 12, 2010

    "If I saw a body on the street and called the police while drunk, would I be in prison? I think there is definitely a chance that could happen and that is absolutely terrifying.
    "

    There's a VERY good chance. That's why many people advise that you do not call the police under any circumstances. Sad but true.

  • jlh4jdj Feb 12, 2010

    NCborn-While agree with you that it is real easy to sit behind a computer like American56 did and say the things they did, I support their right to say those things. I have said many times any idiot knows that there are good and bad people in all professions. The only thing I will say is that if you have a bad LEO it can ruin your life. I bad tire salesman just takes you for a few hundred dollars.

  • Inter Alios Feb 12, 2010

    "Deaver said that SBI guidelines required him to report the presence of blood if any of three tests came back positive."

    Do the guidelines not require him to also report the negative results? If not, something is terribly wrong with the guidelines and have been so for how many years and how many cases and how many people sitting in prison? Why wouldn't he simply do what the Central Oklahoma professor said "simply report the results". The SBI lab should be shut down. Any evidence which needs to be analyzed should be sent to a lab operated by independent scientists who do not have a stake in the outcome of their analysis.

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