Local News

Lawyers criticize ex-SBI analyst's work in murder trials

Posted December 8, 2011 12:29 p.m. EST
Updated December 9, 2011 12:47 p.m. EST

Duane Deaver

— Three lawyers on Thursday criticized the work of a former State Bureau of Investigation analyst at the center of Mike Peterson's attempt to get a new murder trial.

Attorneys Diane Savage, Brad Bannon and Mike Klinkosum said they questioned the tests on blood evidence done by Duane Deaver in other murder cases in which they were involved.

Peterson, a Durham novelist and one-time mayoral candidate, says Deaver provided misleading testimony about blood evidence during his 2003 murder trial.

He was convicted of first-degree murder in the Dec. 9, 2001, beating death of his wife. Kathleen Peterson was found dead in a pool of blood at the bottom of a staircase in the couple's upscale Durham home.

The SBI fired Deaver in January. An independent review of the SBI crime lab last year found that he was linked to some of the most egregious of 200 criminal cases where blood evidence was misstated or falsely reported between 1987 and 2003.

Peterson's attorney, David Rudolf, has spent three days trying to discredit Deaver. He has called on an SBI official who noted Deaver exaggerated his expertise at the 2003 trial and was known for having a bias toward proving prosecutors' cases and a professor of forensic sciences who says Deaver's tests in the Peterson case were flawed.

Rudolf shows portions of Deaver's testimony in Peterson's trial to a second blood evidence analysis expert on Thursday. Paulette Sutton, a professor at the University of Tennessee who has taught FBI agents and other law enforcement officers about blood evidence, ridiculed the test he conducted in the case.

In one test, he dropped blood into a cardboard box from a 12-foot ladder to demonstrate spatter patterns. "I'm not even sure where that comes from," Sutton said, noting that there wasn't any box at the crime scene.

Another test had Deaver stomping on blood from both a standing and sitting position to show what happens when someone walks through blood.

"He never walked through blood. He stomped on blood," Sutton said. "It's just not answering questions about the scene."

Earlier Thursday, Savage said a federal judge found Deaver's testimony misleading in the trial of George Goode, who was convicted in the 1992 murder of a Smithfield couple.

Deaver led jurors to believe that he had found blood on Goode's shoes when tests couldn't confirm that, Savage said. He also told the jury that a lack of blood on Goode didn't mean that he didn't commit the crimes.

"In my view, (they were) very unscientific statements," Savage said.

Bannon said Deaver and an SBI analyst he had trained changed a report filed in the case of Dr. Kirk Turner, a Clemmons dentist acquitted of killing his estranged wife in 2007. Turner said he had stabbed her in self-defense when she attacked him with a spear.

An initial SBI report showed some blood stains on Turner's T-shirt came from wiping a bloody hand on the shirt, Bannon said, but the report was later altered to say that the stains came from the knife Turner used. Bannon said the change, which was never explained, implied that Turner staged the spear attack and then stabbed himself.

Klinkosum testified about Deaver's role in the case of Greg Taylor, the Cary man who spent 17 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit. Deaver's tests in Taylor's case reported that blood evidence was found when follow-up tests that weren't reported were negative.