State News

Fixing SBI will cost money

Posted September 16, 2010

— Restoring the credibility of the State Bureau of Investigation's crime laboratory after a blistering review of the lab's policies and procedures will cost the state, officials said Thursday.

An independent review found 190 cases that resulted in convictions from 1987 to 2003 in which SBI agents in the crime lab's blood-stain analysis unit omitted, overstated or falsely reported information about blood evidence.

Since the report was released last month, the crime lab director has been replaced, and Attorney General Roy Cooper has ordered audits of other parts of the lab. Defense attorneys say they will question the credibility of the SBI in court, and some lawmakers have said that they lab might need to be removed from SBI control.

"I was heartened by the actions that were taken, but it's also clear we have a long way to go," Rep. Rick Glazier, co-chairman of a special legislative committee looking into policy and procedure issues at the SBI, said Thursday.

The Joint Select Study Committee on the Preservation of Biological Evidence was formed last year to examine more technical evidence-preservation procedures. The committee, which also includes current and former district attorneys, court administrators and law enforcement authorities, heard Thursday from Cooper, new SBI Director Greg McLeod and Chris Swecker and Mike Wolf, the two former assistant FBI directors who conducted the independent review.

Panel to examine SBI after blistering review Cooper: Too early to discuss independent crime lab

The committee expects to recommend changes in SBI operations to the General Assembly, which reconvenes in January. Glazier, D-Cumberland, said lawmakers should be prepared to spend money to carry out any needed reforms.

"The costs of not doing that are far greater than whatever those costs are going to be," he said.

McLeod said more training and more personnel will probably be needed to correct the deficiencies.

Cooper said it's too early to address the issue of an independent crime lab.

"I think that's an issue for tomorrow. That's an issue for the next legislative session. Today, I'm concentrating solely on fixing the problems," he said.

"We don't have all of the facts yet," he continued. "We haven't looked at all the other states and compared it to what North Carolina is doing. The key right now is for us to concentrate on the problems and get those problems fixed as quickly as possible and making sure the work that is done at the SBI is accurate and fair."

Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers say, however, that making the crime lab independent could remove perceptions that lab workers are aiding prosecutors seeking evidence to build their cases. Twelve other states already have independent crime labs.

“There is a cloud hanging over the SBI, and the only way to remove that cloud is to remove the crime lab from the SBI,” Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight said in a statement this week.

"This is simply inexcusable," Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, said when the report was released in August. "We have to consider whether or not the SBI should remain under the Attorney General's Office or whether it should be an independent agency."

The special committee's co-chair, Sen. Ed Jones, said that quality control is his top concern. He suggested that another approach could be for other people in the SBI lab to double-check reports for accuracy.

“I’m open to any suggestions,” Jones, D-Bertie, said Monday. “I’m going in with an open mind to find out what happened and to keep it from happening again.”

House Minority Leader Paul Stam, R-Wake, a committee member, said he wants more information before deciding on lab independence but said there has to be some working relationship between lab workers and law enforcement because their charge is to solve crimes with integrity.

“These are the practical problems,” Stam said. “We want the final work product of the SBI lab to be beyond reproach all the time.”


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  • shortz1994 Sep 17, 2010

    think of all the cases, that they screwed up, just to get a conviction,now all those cases have to go through review, an yes 1/2 of the convicted criminals if they did it, will be let loose, on miss trial. face the fact's if this blood evidence was the only way to convict that person, an it was tampered with, well get out of jail free card for no they can not be tried a second time for the same charge, so if murder two is what they got, then it would have to be tried under a lesser offence.. man thank you sbi, for making north carolina a safer place...

  • ghimmy51 Sep 17, 2010

    They are correct. If we have an SBI crime lab it has to be above suspicion and independent. I think it's a valid thought to look at the cost of the lab compared to the availability of reputable commercial labs and the SBI as purely a statewide law enforcement agency.

  • Peace Love and Cold Meds Sep 16, 2010

    Too bad, skip it then. We can't afford anymore repair bills from the one term BooHooBev reign.

  • Juncyard Sep 16, 2010

    I want to see people in orange jumpsuits and in leg chains if they manipulated evidence....

  • Nothing New Sep 16, 2010

    Oh great a Legislative Panel, the same people you spend more then they collect in taxes, the same people who have almost zero credibitly with taxpayers is heading an investigation, go figure. Wonder how much money it is going to take to fix this problem, Government can never fix a problem with existing dollars, they always have to have more to "fix problems". I have all the confidence in the world that this will cost taxpayers more and some people will be getting rich off this, typical for the government.

  • Moth Ball Sep 16, 2010

    "These are the practical problems,” Stam said. “We want the final work product of the SBI lab to be beyond reproach all the time.”

    "These are the practical problems," the People. "We want the final work product of the General Assembly to be beyond reproach all the time."

  • FE Sep 16, 2010

    Having any type of "legislative panel" is pretty much a complete joke. (The members of the NC Legislature must have been wearing blinders and ear plugs to have missed all of the illegal activity going on within their own building in recent years!)

    Their primary goal is ALWAYS "let's see what I can do to get re-elected."

    BTW: I think the FBI lab previously encountered some major problems with members of its own staff and/or faced accreditation issues. Maybe someone knows.


  • luckn4u2 Sep 16, 2010

    Why didn't they investigate this matter back in the day when democrat Robert Morgan was in charge of the SBI..

  • Sherlock Sep 16, 2010

    Why not set the lab up like the FBI same rules, etc. but what about the status of their accreditation has that been revoked?

  • bombayrunner Sep 16, 2010

    This needs a completely outside source to investigate all the boys sittin on the porch. Smells like the good ole boys have predetermined someones faith and have the best manufactured evidence to prove it.