New SBI director sets out to rebuild agency
Two weeks after being named to lead the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, Greg McLeod already faces a tough road in restoring confidence in the agency.Posted — Updated
On Wednesday, two former FBI agents asked to review the operations of the SBI's blood stain analysis lab released a report that found that the lab omitted, overstated or falsely reported blood evidence in dozens of cases, including three that ended in executions.
The report called for a thorough examination of blood evidence in 190 criminal cases from 1987 to 2003.
"They were clearly unacceptable practices," McLeod said in an interview Wednesday.
McLeod, who previously served as general counsel for the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety and the Attorney General's Office, said he has already implemented new checks and balances within the crime lab, including seeking national accreditation, conducting spot audits and appointing an ombudsman to watch over testing and evidence handling.
"You've got to go in with a questioning attitude and an open mind and do a lot of listening," he said about trying to rebuild the crime lab and the overall agency.
He said he is open to the idea of creating an independent lab, but he wants to make sure the SBI is not impeded in gathering and analyzing evidence.
Four agents whose practices were questioned in the report remain at the SBI, including Duane Deaver, who admitted he withheld a negative blood test in the case of Greg Taylor.
A special judicial panel exonerated Taylor in February after he had served 17 years in prison for the murder of a Raleigh prostitute.
"I can't speak specifically about individuals, but I can certainly say that appropriate personnel action will be taken," McLeod said.
He said Deaver is on leave from the agency with pay while his cases are being reviewed.
While acknowledging much room for improvement – 7 percent of lab analysts don't have have science degrees, for example – McLeod expressed confidence in the vast majority of SBI agents and how they handle their duties.
"Their role is not to help prosecutors but to seek justice," he said.