Local News

Greg Taylor files lawsuit against former SBI agents

Posted June 28, 2011 6:18 p.m. EDT
Updated June 29, 2011 5:29 a.m. EDT

— A Durham man who spent nearly 17 years in prison for first-degree murder before his landmark exoneration last year is suing five former agents with the State Bureau of Investigation for their roles in his wrongful conviction.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Raleigh, Greg Taylor claims the defendants "intentionally and in bad faith" misrepresented blood evidence against him knowing that it could result in his conviction and that the defendants "prevented, obstructed, impeded and hindered justice" by allowing it.

"There's not a lot I can say about it right now," Taylor, 49, said Tuesday afternoon. "The complaint speaks for itself."

Calls to the SBI for comment were not immediately returned.

Taylor, who was found guilty in April 1993 for the beating death of Jacquetta Thomas, was the first person to be exonerated because of the work of the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, the only state-run agency in the country dedicated to proving a convicted person's innocence.

The 38-page complaint lists more than a dozen personal injuries and sicknesses to Taylor as a result of his wrongful conviction, including permanent damage to his vision, inadequate medical care, poor nutrition, severe emotional distress, physical pain and suffering and humiliation, indignities and embarrassments.

Among those being sued is Duane Deaver, a blood-stain analyst who testified during the innocence hearing that prosecutors in Taylor's trial relied partly on a lab report that indicated blood was found in his SUV near Thomas' body.

The report, however, did not mention that a second test for blood was negative. The negative result was contained in more extensive, informal notes that the SBI kept filed away until Taylor's case came before the innocence panel.

"Because Deaver intentionally misrepresented evidence against Taylor, Taylor was imprisoned for 16 years, nine months and 28 days for a crime he did not commit," the lawsuit states.

Philip Miller, an attorney for Deaver, released a statement Tuesday saying that he had only seen the lawsuit briefly and couldn't comment on specific allegations.

"But we do continue to wonder how Duane can be sued for this when he did not testify at Greg Taylor's trial nor did he have any control over what documents the SBI did or did not provide to the district attorney," Miller said.

Others being sued are Joseph Taub, another blood stain analyst; Mark Nelson, chief of the serology section of the SBI Crime Lab from 1986 to 2002; Ralph Keaton, the lab's assistant director in 1993; and Harold Elliott, the lab director from 1986 through 1995.

It was Nelson who sent a 1997 order to members of the lab's molecular genetics section, writing that if an initial test for blood or saliva is positive but confirmatory tests are not, they should say the evidence showed chemical indications for their presence.

Nelson, who went on to work for the U.S. Justice Department, declined to comment on the memo in an interview with the AP last year.

Deaver's testimony prompted an independent review of the SBI Crime Lab that found that analysts had frequently misstated or falsely reported blood evidence in about 200 criminal cases during a 16-year period ending in 2003.

Some of the most egregious violations found during were linked to Deaver, who was fired from his job in January.

The SBI said in March that it had found 74 additional cases in the 1990s in which blood evidence was mishandled.

Earlier this year, Gov. Bev Perdue signed a bill making it a crime for lab workers to withhold results.

The law changes the lab's name to the North Carolina State Crime Laboratory and makes clear the lab serves the public and the justice system, not just prosecutors. The legislation also creates a panel of scientists to review lab practices.