Contempt charge dropped against former SBI agent
Posted September 14, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — A Superior Court judge on Wednesday dismissed a contempt charge against a former State Bureau of Investigation agent whose work prompted a review of the agency's crime lab.
The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission had requested a hearing where Duane Deaver would have to show a judge why he shouldn't be held in criminal contempt for his testimony before the commission two years ago.
Deaver's attorney, Philip Isley, declined to comment on the dismissal. Representatives of the innocence commission couldn't be reached for comment.
Last year, the innocence commission accused Deaver of intentionally misleading the panel during September 2009 testimony in a landmark case that ended with the exoneration of Greg Taylor, who had served almost 17 years for the murder of a prostitute in Raleigh.
The commission recommended that Taylor's case go to a special three-judge panel, which declared Taylor innocent in February 2010.
The commission then asked for a contempt hearing for Deaver, alleging that he didn't disclose all his blood testing when he testified before the panel. The motion for the hearing focused on confusing and seemingly contradictory comments Deaver gave to a commission investigator and testimony at the hearing.
Deaver's testimony triggered fresh questions about the SBI lab's policies and procedures, leading to an independent review that concluded SBI analysts had frequently misstated or falsely reported blood evidence during a 16-year period ending in 2003.
Some egregious violations found during the review were linked to Deaver. In two of the cases, including one that ended in an execution, Deaver's final report on blood analyses said his tests "revealed the presence of blood" when his notes indicated negative results from follow-up tests. His notes indicate that he got a negative result because he didn't have enough sample left for the confirmatory test.
Deaver and the state held a court-ordered mediation session last Friday with former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Henry Frye. During the session, Deaver acknowledged "the confusing nature of his testimony" and agreed that the commission could have been misled, according to the mediated settlement agreement.
Because of his admission, the commission agreed to drop the contempt charge, and Judge Osmond Smith III, who ordered the mediation, dismissed the charge.
The dismissal could affect Deaver's attempt to regain his job. Attorney General Roy Cooper based his decision to fire Deaver partly on the contempt charge.
Taylor's suit against Deaver also cites the charge.