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Murder charge dismissed for Durham man

Posted December 10, 2010

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— A Durham man accused of murder and jailed for more than a decade saw his charges dismissed Friday after alleged mistakes by the State Bureau of Investigation.

Derrick Michael Allen's lawyer, Lisa Williams, argued in court that the SBI violated her client's constitutional rights because the agency failed to share everything it found in blood tests.

Allen's case is among 200 cases that an outside audit said were mishandled by the SBI. The audit revealed agents failed to report correct blood evidence in the cases.

Allen, 31, was charged in 1998 in the death and sexual assault of a 2-year-old girl. An autopsy showed the girl died of shaken baby syndrome.

Allen has maintained his innocence and was released on bond in September after spending more than a decade in prison.

Assistant District Attorney Mich Garrell argued Friday that the case needed to go to trial and not be thrown out on the basis of the SBI problems.

Garrell also cited two doctors who found evidence of sexual assault on the child.

"There is independent evidence, completely independent of the SBI," he said, adding that the SBI had nothing to do with the homicide charge against Allen. 

SBI agent defends work

Jennifer Elwell, the SBI agent who did the testing in 1998, took the stand Friday and said she disagreed with the audit, which was performed by two former FBI officials.

"Neither one of them had forensic biology experience, and neither one of them really understood the testing that we did," Elwell said.

Williams asked Elwell if she was implying that North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper picked incompetent people to do the review.

"I am not going to speak for the attorney general. If you would like to call him and subpoena him, you can ask him," Elwell said.

A spokeswoman for Cooper said Friday that the attorney general stands by the audit and that Elwell remains suspended from case work pending a review.

"I think it’s also important to note that the review commissioned by Attorney General Cooper was not intended to examine scientific procedures but rather whether or not test results were fully shared," said Cooper's spokeswoman, Noelle Talley.

Elwell defended her work, saying she followed procedures in place at the lab at the time. She said the particular blood test in question can yield results that are inconclusive and shouldn't be reported as negative. That test is no longer used, she said.

Williams pointed out that it's not that Elwell didn't follow the rules at the time, but the policies were flawed.

Williams also added that Elwell was removed because 32 of her cases, including Allen's, used the former testing methods.

"I was removed from casework, and this was all that was told to me," Elwell said.

"The whole issue is about fully disclosing test results. Today, full SBI lab results including bench notes are available electronically, and we’ve also shared complete files for all of the historic cases covered in the report so that prosecutors and defense attorneys have the information they need to review each case on its merits," SBI Director Greg McLeod said Friday. "The SBI is moving forward to implement all of the recommendations made in the report."

Elwell said on the stand that she had not read the full SBI audit. She would not comment to WRAL News about how much of the report she had read.

57 Comments

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  • robertgiles2 Dec 10, 2010

    what do Derrick Michael Allen and NC's immediate past Governor have in common? They both entered Alford pleas....
    esteemed company I'd say.....If a Governor can be jammed with the weight of the law....not whole truths and such what chance does a poor black man have with a court appointed attorney who thinks all the officers of the court are honest and tell the whole truth. He knew what was going to happen to him whether they had the evidence or not.....

  • marysdecor2004 Dec 10, 2010

    If there's anything I've learned about NC Justice It's that you can be completely innocent and go to jail anyway. The alford plea is too widely used in this state. The problem is anybody can say anything in this state about you and convince the law it's true. Anybody can build a case against a totally innocent person just by showing partial evidence. Look at the Duke Lacross Case. In NC they can put you in prison for life and have no evidence against you. I am sure there are many people in jail that are not guilty. I pray for them because it doesn't look like anything is going to change in this state anytime soon.

  • Eduardo1 Dec 10, 2010

    One thing I do not understand! Was he guilty or innocent of murder????????

    Is Ms Elwell correct in her assessment of those who passed judgment on the evidence. Are they trained to so?

  • didisaythat Dec 10, 2010

    Another criminal who was found guilty is being let go to roam the streets because of acitvist with an agenda find loopholes for them to be set free. Why is it that a person can only be tried once for a crime but they can have all the trials they want to be found "innocent". Why do we not want criminals to be punished. We set up commmissions to get people out of prison. We glorify criminals beating the charge. Hold criminals accountable. Send this guy and that Taylor guy back to prison where they belong.

  • Tax Man Dec 10, 2010

    If they find any SBI employees lied or withheld vital evidence then they should go to jail for obstruction of justice! Same with the prosecution - do your job right - if you cheat to get convictions you need to be locked up yourself!

  • Suasponte Dec 10, 2010

    fl2nc2ca2md2nc,

    There was a trial and he plead guilty (by way of an Alford plea) to the charges. After he began serving his sentence, he started the appeals process to vacate his plea and request a new trial. He did not sit in jail for 10 years waiting for trial. It's all in the article above.

  • luvbailey Dec 10, 2010

    "Let 'Em Go Orlando!" strikes again!

  • robertgiles2 Dec 10, 2010

    Hurray for justice. How many times has justice been circumvented in NC by sone officer or SBI agent not of good moral fiber who reports and/or manipulates damning evidence then suddenly get amnesia when it comes to evidence favorable to a defendant. Those are the real crimes by these less than truthful lab rats.....How many lives have been ruined by just an INDICTMENT.....just one SBI agent or other law enforcement agent twisting the truth some and leaving out helpful info while at Grand Jury because they "KNEW they had the right guy."
    If people are put in prison for breaking rules/laws doesn't it follow that the one trying to put them in prison be held accountable for following the laws and rules....they each took an oath in the court that they'd tell the truth...the whole truth.....its obvious they didn't tell the whole truth....they should be held in contempt of court and discharged from their employent...if not indicted for felonious Larceny of people's lives....years of their li

  • fl2nc2ca2md2nc Dec 10, 2010

    I am really trying to grasp how this guy spent a decade in prison without a trial? I didn't think that was supposed to happen in this country!

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Dec 10, 2010

    I really hate these cases. The criminal is released due to technicalities, rather than PROVING they were innocent. I'm don't believe this guy is innocent, and I don't believe Greg Taylor is innocent. Even if Greg Taylor was innocent of murder, he still admitted being involved in drugs. The time he served was deserved, regardless.

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