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Greg Taylor files lawsuit against former SBI agents

Posted June 28, 2011
Updated June 29, 2011

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— A Durham man who spent nearly 17 years in prison for first-degree murder before his landmark exoneration last year is suing five former agents with the State Bureau of Investigation for their roles in his wrongful conviction.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Raleigh, Greg Taylor claims the defendants "intentionally and in bad faith" misrepresented blood evidence against him knowing that it could result in his conviction and that the defendants "prevented, obstructed, impeded and hindered justice" by allowing it.

"There's not a lot I can say about it right now," Taylor, 49, said Tuesday afternoon. "The complaint speaks for itself."

Calls to the SBI for comment were not immediately returned.

Taylor, who was found guilty in April 1993 for the beating death of Jacquetta Thomas, was the first person to be exonerated because of the work of the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, the only state-run agency in the country dedicated to proving a convicted person's innocence.

The 38-page complaint lists more than a dozen personal injuries and sicknesses to Taylor as a result of his wrongful conviction, including permanent damage to his vision, inadequate medical care, poor nutrition, severe emotional distress, physical pain and suffering and humiliation, indignities and embarrassments.

Among those being sued is Duane Deaver, a blood-stain analyst who testified during the innocence hearing that prosecutors in Taylor's trial relied partly on a lab report that indicated blood was found in his SUV near Thomas' body.

The report, however, did not mention that a second test for blood was negative. The negative result was contained in more extensive, informal notes that the SBI kept filed away until Taylor's case came before the innocence panel.

"Because Deaver intentionally misrepresented evidence against Taylor, Taylor was imprisoned for 16 years, nine months and 28 days for a crime he did not commit," the lawsuit states.

Philip Miller, an attorney for Deaver, released a statement Tuesday saying that he had only seen the lawsuit briefly and couldn't comment on specific allegations.

"But we do continue to wonder how Duane can be sued for this when he did not testify at Greg Taylor's trial nor did he have any control over what documents the SBI did or did not provide to the district attorney," Miller said.

Others being sued are Joseph Taub, another blood stain analyst; Mark Nelson, chief of the serology section of the SBI Crime Lab from 1986 to 2002; Ralph Keaton, the lab's assistant director in 1993; and Harold Elliott, the lab director from 1986 through 1995.

It was Nelson who sent a 1997 order to members of the lab's molecular genetics section, writing that if an initial test for blood or saliva is positive but confirmatory tests are not, they should say the evidence showed chemical indications for their presence.

Nelson, who went on to work for the U.S. Justice Department, declined to comment on the memo in an interview with the AP last year.

Deaver's testimony prompted an independent review of the SBI Crime Lab that found that analysts had frequently 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 during were linked to Deaver, who was fired from his job in January.

The SBI said in March that it had found 74 additional cases in the 1990s in which blood evidence was mishandled.

Earlier this year, Gov. Bev Perdue signed a bill making it a crime for lab workers to withhold results.

The law changes the lab's name to the North Carolina State Crime Laboratory and makes clear the lab serves the public and the justice system, not just prosecutors. The legislation also creates a panel of scientists to review lab practices.


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  • Bartmeister Jul 1, 2011

    Taylor has already accepted $750,000.00 from the State as compensation, so I'm not sure what he expects from this lawsuit...Centurian

    How about accountability.

  • Centurian Jun 30, 2011

    Taylor's own admission put him at the crime scene with his vehicle while smoking crack cocaine. He said he saw the victim's body before leaving to smoke crack at another location. The circumstantial evidence used to convict him was weaker than the evidence in some other high profile Wake County caes. I'm not entirely convinced of his "innocence", but agree that there seems to have been insufficient evidence to convict him.

    Taylor has already accepted $750,000.00 from the State as compensation, so I'm not sure what he expects from this lawsuit. The "blood evidence" at issue would only have proven that Taylor's truck was at the crime scene, NOT that he was the killer. (In fact, Taylor has always maintained being at the scene with his truck that night anyway!)

  • jzdukefan Jun 30, 2011

    I hope he wins. ANYONE who has to be confined behind bars for 16 years for a crime they did not commit deserves some kind of justice.

  • sg0544 Jun 30, 2011

    You're right. There is nothing wrong with the science. The problem is with Duane Deaver's reporting of the science. You're also right about the attorneys. With 20/20 hindsight we now know neither the prosecution nor the defense should have taken Mr. Deaver’s report at face value. It was a mistake to believe the report was complete and accurate. It was a mistake to trust that Mr. Deaver was following the law and disclosing all exculpatory evidence. However, none of that absolves Mr. Deaver of responsibility for his actions.

    It also doesn’t matter how much the blood evidence factored into the jury’s decision to convict Mr. Taylor, or that Mr. Taylor was a drug addict, or that he should have been home with his family, or that his truck was at the crime scene, etc. His constitutional rights were still violated when the negative confirmatory tests weren't disclosed. Mr. Deaver chose not to disclose the results, which is why he is the one being sued.

  • sg0544 Jun 30, 2011

    "Ok, now we're getting somewhere. Your statement has changed from intentionally hid to tried to hide"--willemakeit

    Actually, my statement never changed. In both my posts I said Mr. Deaver tried to hide the results of the confirmatory tests. I used the phrase tried to hide because in the end he was unsuccessful. The attorneys did find out there were negative confirmatory tests. Mr. Deaver didn’t include the results of the confirmatory tests in his initial report. He was asked if he performed any additional tests beyond the presumptive phenolphthalein tests and he said no. Mr. Deaver had a legal and ethical obligation to disclose that confirmatory tests were performed and the results of those tests. By not disclosing that information to the defense he violated Mr. Taylor’s constitutional right to a fair trial. Before making statements like “you really don’t have a clue” you might want to actually read what I have written.

  • littlea85 Jun 29, 2011

    "But we do continue to wonder how Duane can be sued for this when he did not testify at Greg Taylor's trial nor did he have any control over what documents the SBI did or did not provide to the district attorney," Miller said

    I think if any one should be named in this lawsuit it should be Taylor's trial attorney. If the trial attorny had any sense, he would have asked for all the test results. He was the one that did not fight this case the first go round. Deaver was doing his job, not singling out specific indviduals. Taylor was a drug addict. Probably the most positive thing to come out of this is that he is drug free.

    Just remember, Mr. Taylor....when you point the finger at someone, you are pointing 3 more back at yourself.

  • Centurian Jun 29, 2011

    By Mr. Taylor's own admission, he was smoking crack cocaine in the area where the victim's body was found at about 2:30 am. After his vehicle got stuck, he admits walking back along the road he had driven into the area and seeing the victim's body laying beside the road. He said he never reported it, but instead went to another location to smoke some more crack.

    Now the contested "blood spot" on the truck could've only proved for the prosecution that Taylor was AT THE SCENE, but it would not have proved that he committed the murder. Yet Taylor has said by his own volition that HE WAS AT THE SCENE immediately before and after smoking the first round of crack cocaine with his friend.

    The "blood" evidence on the vehicle seems to have been anecdotal at best, so I'm not sure how much that played in the totality of the prosecution's case. The truck was still at the crime scene when the police discovered the body.

    Mr. Taylor and his attorneys have a difficult task ahead in proving this

  • astonished Jun 29, 2011

    My point in continuing this inane argument is that the science is good. But people who don't understand it misused it during the trial - the prosecutor referred to the substance as blood therefore contradicting Deaver's report. There was plenty of other "credible evidence" as you put it that was used to convict him, but now everyone is hanging it on that one spot of possible blood, because that was the only thing he could argue. Taylor never argued the substance wasn't blood until someone realized, while his Innocence hearing was already under way, that the prosecutor referred to the substance as blood even though Deaver's report did not say it was blood... who should be sued here? The prosecutor is the only one who misrepresented lab results and the original defense attorney wasn't doing his due diligence to catch it.

  • more cowbell Jun 29, 2011

    You made my point for me. You really DON'T know what it's like do you? Tell you what, I do. As long as you can hide safely behind your bogus identity tapping on your keyboard, you haven't the right to judge those from that segment of society. Once it goes beyond a year, 7, 17 or 27, it really doesn't matter anymore. You haven't the capacity to understand anything you pretend to know. I mayy loose my posting privileges for this one but thanks to new screen names, like you, I can keep right on playing.

  • astonished Jun 29, 2011

    seankelly - I am not trying to impress anyone, just trying to explain the science, which has been misrepresented in the media a thousand times. Bottom line, the tests did not prove that the one spot wasn't blood just as they didn't prove it was blood. That's why the report doesn't say the substance was blood. And maybe you don't understand what a presumptive test is... by itself it is not enough to draw a definitive conclusion about whether the substance is blood, but combined with another positive presumptive test, such as Luminol, that conclusion can be made. A negative confirmatory test doesn't mean the substance was not blood, just that blood could not be confirmed. It's actually an easy concept if you try to understand it rather than clinging to the media's repeated misinterpretation.

    I don't know whether he is guilty or not - no one except Taylor and the victim can know that. To claim otherwise is disingenuous.