Local News

Cooper names another interim chief of SBI crime lab

Posted October 13, 2010 10:27 a.m. EDT
Updated October 13, 2010 4:17 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper on Wednesday named a former judge as interim director of the beleaguered State Bureau of Investigation crime lab.

The appointment of Joe R. John Sr. is the second time in five weeks that Cooper has tried to find someone to guide the crime lab while a nationwide search is conducted for a permanent chief.

Two weeks ago, Gerald Arnold, a former chief judge of the state Appeals Court, backed out of the post, saying he wouldn’t be able to handle a job with such a large time commitment.

John, who served on the state Court of Appeals from 1992 to 2000 and was previously a Superior Court and District Court judge in Greensboro, will be responsible for auditing all sections of the crime lab to ensure that test results are accurate and have been properly reported.

An independent review of cases in the lab's blood-stain analysis unit called for a thorough examination of 190 criminal cases, stating information that could have helped defendants was sometimes misrepresented or withheld.

Outside auditors will review the SBI lab’s DNA section this month and in December, Cooper said Wednesday. All 19 of the external audits that have been performed over the last 20 years have found the SBI’s DNA analysis to meet standards set by the FBI.

"We want to make sure the lab’s strong DNA work continues to give law enforcement the thorough, accurate information it needs to solve crimes," he said in a statement.

The first October review will include a team of FBI-qualified forensic analysts from the Kentucky State Police crime laboratory and Burlington-based LabCorp. Federally qualified auditors from the National Forensic Science Technology Center will perform a full-scale audit of the DNA section in December.

“We welcome these reviews as we work to continue the SBI’s work assisting local law enforcement in keeping North Carolina safe,” SBI Director Greg McLeod said in a statement.

McLeod also named Terri Lomax, the vice chancellor for research at North Carolina State University, to the panel that is advising him in the search for a permanent crime lab director.  The panel, which also includes prosecutors, defense attorneys and other representatives of the justice system, met last month and plans to meet again in November.