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Blood expert testifies at Taylor hearing

Gregory Taylor has spent nearly 17 years in prison for a murder he claims he did not commit. Now, he's getting a second chance at freedom.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A state agent should not have omitted results of follow-up blood tests from his lab report, and other officials were wrong when they testified that blood was found on the Gregory Taylor's truck, a blood expert testified Wednesday at a hearing to determine if Taylor should be set free.

Taylor, 47, is getting a second chance at freedom this week as a three-judge panel hears new evidence in the murder of 26-year-old Jaquetta Thomas, whom police found dead at the end of a cul de sac on South Blount Street in Raleigh the morning of Sept. 26, 1991.

Taylor's truck was found nearby, and within 12 hours of finding the body, he was arrested and charged in the case. He was found guilty in April 1993, but has maintained his innocence.

Tom Bevel, a blood spatter expert and professor at the University of Central Oklahoma, said Wednesday that no human blood was found on Taylor's truck, disputing trial court testimony that says otherwise.

Bevel said lab notes from Duane Deaver, an agent with the State Bureau of Investigation, indicated important tests on two items from Taylor's truck showed no presence of blood.

But the agent's formal lab report did not include that information – only that initial tests did show the presence of blood.

Bevel said the follow-up tests should have been included because of the potential for false-positives in the initial tests.

Agents with the City-County Bureau of Investigation, who testified at trial that tests showed the presence of blood, should have clarified that they based their statements on the presumptive tests.

Both the agents and Deaver were wrong, Bevel said.

"You report what the results are, positive or negative," he said of Deaver.

Of the CCBI agents' trial testimony, he said: "If you get a negative, you cannot say you have blood."

If Taylor killed Thomas, then blood should have been found on his vehicle or clothing, he said.

"Blood is uncontrollable," Bevel said.

Taylor's case is the second to go before a panel of Superior Court judges after the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission unanimously decided that there was enough evidence to warrant a full review in an evidentiary hearing.

The Innocence Commission, established in 2007 by the General Assembly, investigates and evaluates claims of innocence and evidence not considered at trial. Unlike a criminal trial, the burden of proof rests solely on Taylor's attorneys.

Also testifying Wednesday was Gregg McCrary, a crime scene analyst and former FBI agent, who said that based on the information he has seen, there were no effort on investigators' part to try to learn about Thomas and that investigators appeared to have "tunnel vision," looking only at Taylor and Beck.

"That was the thrust of the investigation," he said, suggesting investigators might have looked at evidence to support their theory and ruling out any other.

Earlier Wednesday, Taylor took the stand again for day two of cross-examination by Wake County Assistant District Attorney Tom Ford, who prosecuted Taylor at trial.

Ford questioned differences between Taylor's current testimony and his previous statements to police and attorneys.

Discrepancies included how much money Taylor had with him and what sort of tattoo a woman had. Taylor admitted his memory differed, but insisted he didn't kill Thomas.

Ford has argued that Taylor and a friend, Johnny Beck, picked up Thomas that night and then killed her when she refused to perform a sex act.

On Wednesday, Ford said Thomas was in the back seat of Taylor's white Nissan Pathfinder that night and they went to the cul de sac because they didn't want to take her home.

"It was all about the drugs," Taylor said, adding that he wanted to stay in the area because he knew the drugs were easier to get to buy them.

"So it wasn't because you had Jacquetta Thomas in the back seat and you knew you were going to have to leave her in the neighborhood where you picked her up?" Ford asked.

"That woman or nobody else was in my back seat, sir," Taylor said.

He testified Tuesday that he spent a night drinking and doing drugs as he Beck, drove from one location to another to buy crack cocaine. When his truck got stuck in the mud, he abandoned it and continued to do drugs

He admitted to seeing a body lying on the road but didn't report it to police because he was high.

Taylor also said Tuesday that he turned down repeated offers from police to blame Thomas' death on Beck, even when police told him that Beck was blaming the murder on him.

Ford was among those who made such an offer, including after Taylor was behind bars, when Ford said he and a judge would make his case to the governor if Taylor would cooperate.

Still, Taylor said no.

When Cheshire asked him why Tuesday, he replied: "It was still the same as it has been all along. There was no way I could testify against Johnny Beck because we didn't have anything to do with this crime."

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