WRAL Investigates

Was science of blood evidence lost in translation to jurors?

Posted March 9, 2011

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— A scathing review of the state crime lab last summer prompted a flood of motions from defense attorneys to review the cases of convicted killers, and legal experts say part of the problem lies in the science of blood evidence.

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.

"People seem to have put a lot of the responsibility for these cases on me, but it's just a piece of the puzzle," he said.

SBI policies, which have changed since the independent review, used to call for blood 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.

"We can't say that's blood, but it might be blood," Deaver said.

Critics argue that lack of proof wasn't always made clear to a jury.

"Any layperson is going to say, if someone says positive for the presence of blood or an indication of blood, that to them means blood is present. It's ridiculous to think otherwise," defense attorney Diane Savage said.

Duane Deaver Web only: Discredited SBI agent defends himself

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.

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

Deaver contends it was the job of prosecutors and defense attorneys to make the distinction clear to jurors of an indication of blood versus the presence of blood. He said he could do so when testifying at trial, but he often wasn't called as a witness.

For example, he never testified during Greg Taylor's 1993 murder trial, although his report showing an indication of blood on Taylor's truck was cited in the trial. His notes about a secondary test with a negative result weren't revealed at the time.

An independent judicial panel found Taylor innocent in February 2010 after he had served 17 years in prison. That ruling prompted the independent review of the crime lab.

"I was told when all this came up that a man was put to death because I falsified a report," Deaver said. "I cried. I would never do that."

Without citing the case, he said he later learned his work didn't lead to that execution, but he said that is part of what he calls misinformation that has destroyed his career.

"Many people have said many things about me that are absolutely untrue," he said.

WRAL Investigates Was science of blood evidence lost in translation to jurors?

Peg Dorer, director of the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, concedes there may have been cases where prosecutors and defense attorneys didn't truly understand the science of blood evidence. Still, she said, she believes the overwhelming majority of cases cited in the independent review of the crime lab had just outcomes at trial.

"Most cases are a compilation of a variety of things from a variety of law enforcement sources, not just a lab test," Dorer said.

More definitive DNA tests have replaced the older blood analysis techniques in many criminal cases.

Cooper declined to comment on Deaver's case, calling it a personnel matter.

The state Innocence Commission has filed a contempt of court charge against Deaver in connection with his testimony during Taylor's hearing last year. No hearing has been set to determine whether he lied under oath, but he said he looks forward to the day he can defend himself against the charge and win back his job.

"I feel like I'm alone and taking this on my shoulders," he said. "I think, in the days to come, I'll be able to prove (my integrity) to the people of North Carolina, and I think they'll be able to be proud again of the agency that they paid much money for."


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  • Sloaf Mar 14, 2011

    Don't lawyers voir dire the jury pools? You would think they were responsible to select people who were capable of understanding the evidence that would be presented to them.

  • sg0544 Mar 11, 2011

    I took danielrentz's advice and watched the video of Mr. Deaver explaining his actions. I used to have some sympathy for Duane Deaver. He obviously has a lot of friends who have zealously told the world he is a great guy in his personal life. I assumed he was basically a good guy who was in the wrong profession. I believed he never intended to hurt anyone, he just didn't have the scientific knowledge or the will or both to stand up to his bosses and the culture at the SBI. I no longer have any sympathy for Duane Deaver.

  • gdballard Mar 11, 2011

    Do you really think Deavers is going to admit to his wrong doings? Do you think he is going to the DA which he worked so hard to help, and volunteer to go to prison and face possibly some of the same people he may have testified against, or their friends? Of course not, he will deny it to the end of time! He is not stupid, he knows his fate! If he goes to prison, he will most likely die in prison at the hand of a lifer. He knows this as well! Deaver knew what he was doing and never thought he would get in trouble doing it. The best is yet to come on Deaver's theatrics in the courtroom and in his investiagions. A crooked cop and a child molestor has no mercy or chance in the prison system! If you really want to understand Deaver's concerns, pull and read some of his court transcripts! You will then see how low life he really is! You will really see what Deavers did, and why he should be punished. As I previously said, it is not JUST the Taylor case, there are many others also!!

  • danielrentz Mar 10, 2011

    If you really want to understand Deaver's perspective and hear his side of the story I suggest you watch the full uncut WRAL web exclusive video interview: vid9244821 If you want to remain ignorant, biased, and uninformed then don't watch it. I guarantee you will come away with knowing that Deaver is innocent. He explains everything clearly and simply so that even a child can understand.

  • r4bishop Mar 10, 2011

    It is interesting that everyone has jumped to try to shoot the messanger without looking closely at the message. Where is the copability of the prosecutors who asked only what they wanted to hear. My understanding of the courts is that they are to find the truth and not obscure it with vague and misleading questions. Let's put some of the lawyers on trial for their part in this fiasco and forget trying to find a scapegoat in those who only answered truthfully what they were asked.


  • ltb Mar 10, 2011

    I agree that this discussion needs to go beyond Agent Deaver. Some other questions need to be answered such as: What is Roy Cooper's role in all of this? What political maneuvering is going on behind the scenes?

  • Curlyq Mar 10, 2011

    “It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.” Mark Twain

    Some of the posters on here should think twice about this quote!

  • Curlyq Mar 10, 2011

    Sometimes its hard for me to see the good in people through the clouds of ignorance they are surrounded by.

    "The forces that tend to evil are great and terrible, but the forces of truth, love, courage, honesty, generosity and sympathy are stronger than ever before"~Theodore Roosevelt.

  • PleaseGodhelpus Mar 10, 2011

    The day is fast approaching when Deaver will be sworn at the SBI. Roy Cooper will be unemployed and The N&O will be out of business.

  • sg0544 Mar 10, 2011

    In the N&O article Bob Gaensslen said negative results in Takayama tests are generally reliable, but false negatives can occur. He also said that is not reason to withhold mention of the test and its results. He said lab analysts have withheld negative rest results, but to do so is not completely forthcoming. Confirming that other analysts have made some of the same mistakes as Mr. Deaver is not the same as saying what he did is alright. On the contrary, Dr. Gaensslen stated those results shouldn't be withheld. Duane Deaver also went beyond just not reporting certain tests. In some reports he said no further tests were done, although confirmatory tests were performed. In other reports he stated testing "revealed" the presence of blood, although confirmatory tests were negative.