WRAL Investigates

Defense attorney says ex-SBI analyst 'telling half the truth'

Posted March 8, 2011
Updated March 9, 2011

Map Marker  Find News Near Me

— Some defense attorneys blame a discredited blood analyst in the state crime lab for their clients' convictions, while former colleagues and others say he is being railroaded.

An independent review of the crime lab last year concluded that State Bureau of Investigation 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 were linked to Duane Deaver, whom Attorney General Roy Cooper fired in January.

In an exclusive interview last Friday with WRAL Investigates, Deaver spoke for the first time since his termination, maintaining that he simply followed SBI policy and didn't do anything wrong.

"We did what we thought was scientifically correct and honest for everyone," he said. "I viewed my job as a scientist. I would take exception to the fact that anyone would say I was trying to build a case against somebody."

"He either doesn't get it or he doesn't want to get it, but I was shocked that he's thinking what he did was OK," defense attorney Diane Savage said.

Savage represented George Goode during appeals of his conviction for the murder of a Johnston County couple. She has argued for years that Deaver misled jurors in the case by indicating blood was on Goode's boots when secondary tests done in the crime lab came back negative.

The SBI's policies, which have changed since the independent review, used to call for analysts to include initial test results in their official report, while the results of negative secondary tests were included only in each analyst's notes.

State courts backed Deaver's expertise in the Goode case, but a federal judge sided with Savage in 2009, calling the evidence "misleading."

"He's not telling the whole truth. He's telling half of the truth," Savage said of Deaver.

WRAL Investigates Defense attorney says ex-SBI analyst 'telling half the truth'

Bill Weis, who was with the SBI for 30 years before retiring as assistant director, said he believes Deaver and the agency are being unfairly blamed for old lab practices.

"I feel Duane Deaver is one of the most honest people I've ever met," Weis said. "What disturbs me most is Duane Deaver has become a villain. The SBI's name has been tarnished, and the truth has not prevailed."

"When I put that up next to Greg Taylor being in prison for 17 years, there's just no comparison," lawyer Christine Mumma said.

Much of Deaver's troubles are tied to Taylor's case. An independent judicial panel found Taylor innocent in February 2010 of a murder that he had been convicted of in 1993, and the ruling prompted the independent review of the crime lab.

Deaver's blood analysis was cited in Taylor's murder trial as showing a preliminary indication of blood on Taylor's truck. In his notes from the time, Deaver wrote that secondary tests were negative for blood, but those notes were never revealed in the trial and he was never called to testify.

During the hearing last year, Deaver said he couldn't say with scientific certainty that the stain found on the truck was blood.

"Do I think he was guilty of perjury? Yes," said Mumma, director of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence and part of the legal team that helped exonerate Taylor.

Still, she said, she also believes Deaver was caught in an old SBI culture that instructed agents to put negative test results in notes but leave them out of reports.

"I do believe that his supervisors are more culpable than he is, but I do think he shares some culpability," she said. "If he was truly trying to be a forensic scientist, he should be challenging policies they were putting in place."

The state Innocence Commission has filed a contempt of court charge against Deaver in connection with his testimony during Taylor's hearing. He said he looks forward to the day he can defend himself against the firing and the contempt charge.

75 Comments

This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • danielrentz Mar 9, 2011

    The short of it: Negative results from secondary blood tests do not disprove or nullify positive results of preliminary blood tests. If Roy Cooper wants the official reporting policies of these test findings changed, then change them. Have they been changed? Naturally, Cooper wants to point the blame elsewhere. He does not want to accept any responsibility or accountability. That would defeat his purpose.

  • danielrentz Mar 9, 2011

    Defense attorneys have attacked the process accusing the SBI of withholding “critical results.” They along with news agencies have said, “Agent Deaver performed test’s that were negative for blood and failed to report them.” It has created a whirlwind that has people believing that Duane knew that the substance was not blood and chose to report that it was. He didn’t. In fact, it would be scientifically false to say that the substance “was not blood.”

    Now that you are informed, isn’t this ridiculous? Doesn’t it make you sick that it is not being reported fairly? What’s worse is the reporters that are reporting these stories know this, and have continued to report it wrong. Isn’t it horrible that a man like Duane is having his integrity questioned over something so stupid? If you have any questions or need any further explanation send me a message. All I want is for the public to be informed and to make their own decision on this.

  • danielrentz Mar 9, 2011

    In the case of Gregory Taylor, and the other 200 cases that DOJ Witch Hunt targeted the substance in question indicated positive phenolphthalein and negative takayama. In these cases the substance can not be called blood, but you can’t say that it isn’t blood. The SBI on their formal report would say, “The substance gave indications of the presence of blood.” Because it did give indications, and barring it wasn’t potato soup or horse radish juice it was most likely blood.

  • danielrentz Mar 9, 2011

    Takayama Test: This test was performed in a laboratory. When a substance that was believed to be blood indicated a positive phenolphthalein it was collected and take to the Crime Lab. Analysts added some chemicals to it and waited a number of hours. They would then look at the sample under a microscope. If the sample had developed crystal-like features it was positive, no crystals negative. This has been described a crude and unreliable test. But, if it indicates positive it is defiantly blood. If the crystals do not form it could mean many things. It could mean the sample was watered down too much, or that it was contaminated. It could have been contaminated by heat, sand or other chemicals. A NEGATIVE TAKAYAMA DOES NOT MEAN THE SAMPLE IS NOT BLOOD, IT JUST MEANS IT CANNOT BE CONFIRMED. It is reasonable that a sample is too contaminated to indicate on a Takayama test, but indicated on a, more sensitive, phenolphthalein test.

  • danielrentz Mar 9, 2011

    Phenolphthalein Test: This is the first “presumptive” test that the media is reporting. This is an extremely sensitive test. It will indicate positive on a substance that is 1 part blood, 10,000 parts water. When in contact with blood it changes color. You have probably read that this test does give false positives. It does. Potatoes and Horseradishes can, but very rarely, indicate a positive result. There are other rare commercially produced chemicals that will produce also positive result.

  • tequila409 Mar 9, 2011

    So everyone ... if the wording of the SBI reports back in 1991 was so egregious and wrong, why didn't the defense attorneys back then raise the issue and file appeals or MARs based on this? Or are we to assume that Chris Mumma & Diane Savage are pure geniuses to able to figure this out 20+ years later and those attorneys in the 1990's weren't that intelligent? (I think not)! Wouldn't the defense attorneys back then also have a moral & ethical obligation to bring this issue to the attention of the courts and public if they thought it was an issue? Why does it all rest on Deaver's shoulders?

    The answer is ... IT WASN'T AN ISSUE! It especially wasn't an issue that Duane Deaver was supposed to figure out and solve for the State of NC.

    Wake up folks! Deaver is purely a political & ideological scapegoat!! It is easy to "armchair quarterback" events or situations from a distance of 20 years. If you all enjoy doing that, go for it.

  • waterwarrior8 Mar 9, 2011

    I've been following this particular Pandora's Box being opened as it sheds new light on the questionable work methods & ethics as displayed by our state's law enforcement agencies & judicial system.

    Just a few yrs ago, I was in a Pamlico County courtroom on charges of impersonating a LEO for complaining about certain public documents pertaining to property rights being removed after midnight from the Bay River Sewer office (after the Director had been fired). A county commissioner called to tip me off of this clandestine act, so I drove down & witnessed it myself. I called the DA (Scott Thomas, who Bev just appointed last yr to be head of Crime Control in Raleigh) at his home after midnight, he told me to call the Sheriff. I did. At the same time I had been communicating w/ 2 SBI agents about the Bay River Sewer fiasco.

    Before I knew it, I WAS arrested. I guess all advocates for free speech & environmental injustices are routinely persecuted.

    Dale Swiggett
    Waterfront Sportsman

  • EverythingTicksMeOff Mar 9, 2011

    clintoflannaga, Also, all these arguments about Deaver not being the bad guy back in 93, Deaver was the one who lied under oath before the Innocence Commission, stating that he did NOT run any followup tests. The man may not be the only bad guy, but he IS a bad guy.

  • sg0544 Mar 9, 2011

    PleaseGodhelpus,

    Jill Spriggs was strongly criticized for the comments she made to the NC legislature defending the SBI. She has since backed off some of her comments. She has also been accused of concealing problems in her own lab. I'm not sure why you chose to believe comments she no longer stands by herself, and ignore what other experts have said.

  • Philosopher Mar 9, 2011

    Dear sg0544,

    Your comment is so off and way out in left field. Watch out for the ball. Focus!

More...