WRAL Investigates

Discredited SBI analyst: 'I haven't done anything wrong'

Posted March 7, 2011 6:00 p.m. EST
Updated March 7, 2011 7:07 p.m. EST

— A blood-stain analyst who was fired from the state crime lab amid questions about the state crime lab’s policies and procedures says he feels that he has become the scapegoat for problems in the crime lab.

"I think I was treated unfairly, and I'm going to prevail," Duane Deaver told WRAL Investigates on Friday in an exclusive interview.

In his nearly 25-year career at the State Bureau of Investigation, Deaver went from being a rising star – he was the go-to guy for blood stain analysis – to being a lightning rod, the symbol of a system accused of withholding evidence.

An independent review of the crime lab concluded that SBI 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.

In two of the cases, for example, Deaver's final blood analysis reports said his tests "revealed the presence of blood" when his notes indicated negative results from follow-up tests.

"Never was it considered by me or anyone that we would withhold or hide anything," Deaver told WRAL News. "That's not the way we did business or wanted to do business."

Attorney General Roy Cooper fired him in January.

"I haven't done anything wrong, yet my career is over," he said.

Much of Deaver's troubles are tied to the case of Greg Taylor. An independent panel found Taylor innocent in February 2010 after he had spent 17 years in prison for murder.

During the hearing, Deaver testified about blood evidence linked to Taylor's truck.

"I can't say with scientific certainty that was blood," he testified.

Yet, his report was cited in Taylor's 1993 trial as showing a preliminary indication of blood. In his notes from the time, Deaver wrote that secondary tests were negative for blood, but those notes were never revealed in the trial.

"I think it's mistaken to think that I, my report is the reason he was convicted," Deaver told WRAL News.

Cooper called for the independent review of the crime lab's blood evidence unit following Taylor's release from prison.

Deaver noted that he was never called to testify during Taylor's original trial, and he said he still stands by his report in the case from a scientific standpoint.

An initial blood test showed a possible indication of blood. By SBI policy at the time, that was included in his official report. Yet, limited secondary tests that didn't confirm blood stayed out of the report, which was the agency's policy at the time.

"I feel like the report was clear because of the language," he said. "An indication of blood would say that it's an indication. Our reports would say that it's blood if it were blood.

"The language of the reports was not made up by me," he added.

Defense attorneys and even some prosecutors now argue that such nuances weren't clear in many cases.

"As time goes on, we find better ways of doing things," Deaver said. "Now, that's not to say we were trying to hide anything or what our language was was not correct. Our language was scientifically correct."

He also said his test notes were always available for review, noting that there was a shredder outside his office if he had wanted to conceal any findings.

Deaver said it's not his job to judge whether Taylor is guilty or innocent, but he said he "would hate to think anyone who is innocent would go to prison, and I would hate to be a part of such."

In addition to fighting for his job, Deaver faces a contempt of court charge over whether he lied to the panel that cleared Taylor.

"It's very hurtful," he said of the criminal charge. "I don't think people know what it means for a person who cared so much about their career to have their name on a defendant sheet – State of North Carolina versus Duane Deaver. It's hard."

He said it's sometimes hard even going out in public.

"I've had people who don't know me say I should be in jail. I've had people say I should be fired," he said. "My most regret in all of is that anyone in North Carolina would think that I did anything wrong to anyone."

Whatever problems exist in the way the state crime lab operates, Deaver said, he feels unfairly singled out, and he vowed to win his job back and clear his name.

"All I can say is I was competent in my job and I knew my job," he said. "The other pieces of the puzzle, they have to be responsible for their part of the job."