Local News

Firing of discredited state blood analyst upheld

Posted August 26, 2014 2:47 p.m. EDT
Updated August 26, 2014 6:05 p.m. EDT

Duane Deaver listens to testimony on April 2, 2014, during an administrative hearing to determine whether he can reclaim his job at the state crime lab. The State Bureau of Investigation fired him in January 2011 for violations of agency policy.

— An administrative law judge ruled Tuesday that the State Bureau of Investigation was justified when it fired a blood analyst three years ago who had been highlighted in an audit that found blood evidence was misstated in scores of criminal cases.

Duane Deaver's appeal of his January 2011 termination now heads to the state Human Resources Commission. Attorney Philip Isley said Deaver is disappointed with the ruling and is working on the next stage of his appeal.

In his nearly 25-year career at the SBI, Deaver went from being a rising star – he was the go-to guy for blood stain analysis – to being a lightning rod, the symbol of a system accused of withholding evidence.

A 2010 independent review of the crime lab concluded that SBI 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 Deaver.

Deaver's lawyers argue that the SBI made him a scapegoat while the agency was under legislative and public scrutiny for the policies and procedures of the state crime lab, noting that SBI officials never included those allegations in their decision to fire him.

The agency cited the following findings to determine that he had violated agency policies:

  • The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission accused him of intentionally misleading the panel during a 2009 hearing on Greg Taylor, who was later determined to have been wrongly convicted in a Raleigh murder case.
  • At the end of a 2009 video demonstration of blood spatter analysis in a case, he said, "That's a wrap, baby."
  • While on leave in late 2010 while the SBI investigated questions of his performance raised in the outside review of the crime lab, he didn't notify his superiors or seek their approval before assisting a criminal profiler in filing a formal complaint against a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division agent who was providing a profile in a western North Carolina case.

Administrative Law Judge James Conner II wrote in his 22-page ruling that the SBI was deliberate and thorough in its review of Deaver's conduct before firing him. He found that Deaver's conduct was unprofessional and violated SBI policies, and he dismissed claims that Deaver was a scapegoat, noting others also would have been disciplined if the agency was trying to deflect criticism.

Deaver "exhibited a distasteful disregard for the judicial system of this state," Conner wrote.

"The filing of a contempt motion by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission was repeatedly treated dismissively, referred to as 'mere allegations.' The filing of perjury allegations by a member of the N.C. State Bar seemed beneath (Deaver's) contempt," the judge wrote. "None of this reflects well on (Deaver), who was seeking reinstatement to a position of trust in service to our system of justice."

In addition to reinstatement, Deaver is seeking back pay and benefits he believes he is entitled to receive. He noted in a deposition he filed in his case that his family and friends are helping pay his legal fees and that he worked at a $9-an-hour job at an AgriSupply store after he was fired. He now works in the hospital supplies and services business in Texas.