State News

SBI to conduct nationwide search for lab director

Posted August 20, 2010

— The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation will launch a national search for a new crime lab director, the state Department of Justice said Friday.

The announcement comes two days after an outside report into the lab's serology program, which found analysts omitted, overstated or falsely reported information about blood evidence in nearly 200 cases that led to convictions in a 17-year period.

SBI director Greg McLeod will convene a panel of law enforcement officials, defense attorneys and prosecutors to replace Jerry Richardson.

"What I have decided is to further strengthen the management team at the SBI,” McLeod told The Associated Press. “To move forward at the SBI crime lab, we need someone with significant scientific experience that is willing to come in and take a fresh look at things and ask lots of questions, be open to criticism and run a more transparent operation.”

Richardson has been removed from his position and did not return a call seeking comment. He has held the job since 2002 and has served with the SBI since 1987.

Greg McLeod Is McLeod right for SBI's top post?

McLeod has also moved to remove agents identified in the outside review who are currently working on cases in the lab, the justice department said.

Defense attorneys and justice groups have called for the crime lab to be independent from the SBI. Some argue that the lab seeks to build cases to support law enforcement's theories rather than the truth.

"We didn't see any evidence of current analyst lack of objectivity," Chris Swecker, a former assistant FBI director who helped conduct the outside SBI review, said Wednesday.

Friday's announcement is the second in recent weeks involving leadership within the SBI.

Last month, longtime director Robin Pendergraft stepped down to take a new role in the Medicaid Investigative Unit of the Attorney General's Office.

Saying the recent scrutiny had nothing to do with her job change, Attorney General Roy Cooper named McLeod, his legislative counsel, to head the SBI.

Some critics, however, believe there should have been a broader search for McLeod's post – someone from outside the justice department who can overhaul the bureau.

"I find it puzzling that the attorney general's lobbyist has been named as the head of the SBI," said former state Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, who is also the executive director of the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law.

"I just think the whole credibility of the criminal justice system has been shaken to its foundation by those revelations," he said.

McLeod worked in the Attorney General's Office for eight years and served before then as general counsel to the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety.

"I've worked with all the partners in the criminal justice system. I'm familiar with them, and I know what their issues and concerns are. I come with an open mind and questioning attitude," he said in an interview Wednesday. "That's what will best serve the SBI right now."

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said Friday that he has found McLeod to be a quick learner, conscientious and "a straight arrow."

"Those qualities would serve any director of the SBI well," Willoughby said. "Before anyone is critical of his term, I think we should give him an opportunity to do his job and judge him on his performance."

28 Comments

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  • sg0544 Aug 23, 2010

    The FBI report was limited in scope. It only looked at cases involving testing for blood using specific confirmatory tests. They saw no current issues in the lab regarding these tests because they are no longer being performed. This wasn't a comprehensive review of the laboratory. The fact that even with this limited review they found problems with over 200 cases and recommended a review of DNA testing being done in the lab show there are problems. Jerry Richardson was removed from his position because he knew there were problems and chose to ignore them. There are good people who work in the crime laboratory. It is thanks to their hard work that the DNA backlog has been reduced and digital evidence is accredited. Just because Jerry Richardson had hard working subordinates doing their jobs doesn't mean he didn't have an obligation to do his job.

  • ebandit Aug 20, 2010

    Both Jerry Richardson and Robin Pendergraft have taken the fall for the AG to salvage his image. And it is sad and unfortunate for this situation to trump all their hard work and many accomplishments they have had throughout their tenure. Remember, they are the ones that instituted the first accredited Digital Evidence Section in America, grew the DNA section so there is no backlog, insured training for trained Chemists to investigate Clan Labs. The FBI report DID said that they saw no current issues in the laboratory. Thanks for your work; there are people out here who can see through this.

  • wayneboyd Aug 20, 2010

    I sincerely hope that when the 100 or so convicted criminals get new trials and over half of them are exonerated that the SBI crowd who slept at the wheel will step forward and
    and pick up the tabs for the restitution they are entitled to.
    I don't think taxpayers should be held accountable

  • bombayrunner Aug 20, 2010

    Listening to this guy on TV, seems like a pretty focused person. He may be in the right place at the wrong time for an opportunity he may deserve and not get it ...merely because he smells like a good-ole-boy. Me -- I'd give him the job ... kinda reminds me of Carolina's chancellor.

  • jdmccollum3 Aug 20, 2010

    tell them to find somebody else

  • Adelinthe Aug 20, 2010

    colliedave - "...and I am sure she will bring the same level of proffesionalism to her new job/."

    AMEN, AND AMEN!!!

    Lord help us.

    God bless.

    RB

  • TheDude abides... Aug 20, 2010

    I wish the SBI would FALSIFY evidence against some of these GOLOers on here. You know, the ones that HATE JUSTICE and HATE THE US CONSTITUTION.

    Fascism at its best! Thomas Jefferson must be getting dizzy in his grave!

  • UNCfuturealumi Aug 20, 2010

    Get every all the Easley baggage out and Bev Perdue and I think that NC can still survive. I believe the auditor is just saving herself..I think she needs a further investigation

  • colliedave Aug 20, 2010

    Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes. Mahatma Gandhi
    nymgirl44

    but the "mistakes" these people made may have cost somepeople their freedom. this isn't like making a mistake posting on GOLO.

  • colliedave Aug 20, 2010

    Last month, longtime director Robin Pendergraft stepped down to take a new role in the Medicaid Investigative Unit of the Attorney General's Office. Saying the recent scrutiny had nothing to do with her stepping down,

    and I am sure she will bring the same level of proffesionalism to her new job/.

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