State News

SBI's bloodstain pattern analysis not accredited

Posted August 4, 2010
Updated August 5, 2010

— The work of North Carolina’s bloodstain pattern analysis program doesn’t have the stamp of approval from a national accrediting group, and the man taking over the State Bureau of Investigation wants to know why.

The State Bureau of Investigation has never sought accreditation for the program’s work from the American Society of Crime Lab Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board, said Ralph Keaton, executive director of the board.

“I have no idea why they haven’t,” said Keaton, who retired in 1995 as deputy assistant director of the SBI crime lab.

That’s one of the issues the new SBI director will look into, Noelle Talley, spokeswoman for the state Attorney General’s Office, said Wednesday in an e-mail. Greg McLeod, the legislative liaison for Attorney General Roy Cooper, is expected to take over the SBI next week.

Last week, Cooper suspended the work of the six agents who analyze bloodstain patterns. Talley didn’t immediately respond to a question about whether Cooper was concerned that the SBI had never sought accreditation for the program. She did say the program, which is part of the SBI’s field work, couldn’t be accredited as long it remains outside the lab’s purview because ASCLD/LAB only accredits crime labs.

North Carolina is not unusual in having a bloodstain pattern analysis program that is not accredited, Keaton said. But a report from the National Academy of Sciences last year recommends accreditation of anyone involved in forensic sciences as one way to eliminate differences among federal, state, and local law enforcement jurisdictions and agencies.

“It’s not been a focus of law enforcement agencies to go that route, but I think that’s going to change,” Keaton said.

Accreditation requires forensic laboratories to have and follow documented procedures in several areas, including training and competency testing of all personnel and a procedure for monitoring the testimony of all analysts who testify.

Cooper said last week he had asked the two former assistant directors with the Federal Bureau of Investigation who are investigating the lab to review cases involving the program. They agreed that the program’s work should be suspended temporarily until all issues involving the cases have been reviewed, Cooper said. He didn’t identify any of the cases.

One of the six agents certified in bloodstain pattern analysis works at the lab, Talley said. Bloodstain pattern analysis involves the examination of shapes, locations and distribution of blood to determine the physical events of a crime, such as evidence of a struggle.

Last week, Cooper named McLeod to take over the management of the lab from Robin Pendergraft, who defended the SBI’s work after the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission made a groundbreaking finding that inmate Greg Taylor was innocent in a 1991 slaying. Pendergraft will be head of the SBI’s newly expanded Medicaid fraud unit.

At the innocence hearing in February for Taylor, SBI Agent Duane Deaver testified that the SBI had a policy of writing on lab reports that a test showed “chemical indications for the presence of blood” even when a follow-up test didn’t confirm that result.

Identifying a substance as blood is separate from bloodstain pattern analysis.

Deaver, however, is among the six agents the SBI lists as being certified to conduct bloodstain pattern analysis. He declined comment Wednesday on any issues involving the SBI.

6 Comments

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  • kimjrogers Aug 9, 2010

    That Pendergraft woman and the "investigators" should be removed from the SBI without pay, and an investigation should begin immediately into their conduct. Any attorney who has a case involving the SBI should be able to tear the side involving the SBI to shreds.

  • meh2 Aug 5, 2010

    I notice that the defenders of the corrupt and mismanaged SBI are nowhere to be seen on this thread.

  • forensics Aug 5, 2010

    A laboratory or agency does not have to be accredited to do good work. We are very fortunate that our SBI Lab does outstanding work. They are far ahead of most. The NAS report has people running scared and is not a gold standard by any means.

    I believe the article is incorrect in that the bloodstain work can be accredited, just not by ASCLAD-LAB. Their individual examiners can also obtain certification in Bloodstains by the International Association for Identification.

    For those who feel that all of their cases should be voided, I have seen some of their work and what I saw was spot on. That doesn't mean that someone didn't find a problem, but what I saw was accurate.

    Remember we don't really know why this step of ceasing casework was taken. It id dangerous to jump to conclusions without knowing all of the facts. Let's just see what happens.

  • ratherbnnc Aug 5, 2010

    If the lab is not accreditated why were they allowed to prcess any cases or evidence. All the cases they have reviewed should be voided and the individuals found guilty of any crime should be given a payment for their time in jail.
    major806

    The SBI Crime Lab is accredited. The Bloodstain pattern analysis program is not. Accreditation is an expensive process
    that costs the taxpayer an enormous amount of money. Its my guess this is the reason for never seeking accreditation of this program.

  • shenanigans Aug 4, 2010

    http://ncdoj.gov/About-DOJ/State-Bureau-of-Investigation/Crime-Lab.aspx - says the lab itself is Nationally Accredited. The story says it's just the bloodstain program that isn't.

  • Sherlock Aug 4, 2010

    If the lab is not accreditated why were they allowed to prcess any cases or evidence. All the cases they have reviewed should be voided and the individuals found guilty of any crime should be given a payment for their time in jail.