Past SBI crime lab policy called into question
Posted February 19, 2010 7:24 p.m. EST
Updated February 19, 2010 7:56 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — Past policies of the State Bureau of Investigation fell short in uncovering the truth in the murder trial of Gregory Taylor, the agency's director said Friday, two days after new evidence helped exonerate Taylor.
Taylor, 47, was convicted of murder in 1993 but freed Wednesday after new evidence proved he did not kill a woman and leave her body in a Raleigh cul-de-sac.
Part of the evidence had to do with blood test results that were excluded from lab reports presented at trial.
SBI agent Duane Deaver testified that it was SBI policy to report that evidence showed an indication for the presence of blood, even when secondary tests to confirm were negative.
He left those results in his bench notes and didn't tell the prosecutor, he said, although he would have explained if he had testified.
SBI Director Robin Pendergraft said Friday that the agency never withheld the evidence but admits some wasn't shared.
"The practice then was not a good practice of not sharing all the information," Pendergraft said. "That's not been the practice we've been engaged in for the past several years."
Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby, who argued against Taylor's release this week, said the information could have changed the verdict in the murder trial.
"I think we were blissfully ignorant that there was information out there that we should have asked for," he said.
State statute now requires the SBI and other law enforcement to turn over all notes and that all information is shared with both the prosecution and defense. Pendergraft said the advancement of DNA technology also makes evidence far more accurate.
Unlike the Taylor case, she points out SBI testing often frees the wrongly accused.
Deaver, who has worked with the SBI since 1985 and is certified as a court expert in serology, now works as a criminal specialist in the SBI's training and investigative support division.
He was accused of misleading jurors about the presence of blood in a 1993 death penalty case against George Goode. A federal judge later vacated the death sentence.
Pendergraft says if other SBI cases are questioned, the agency will investigate accordingly.