State News

SBI's bloodstain pattern analysis not accredited

Posted August 4, 2010 3:48 p.m. EDT
Updated August 5, 2010 12:56 p.m. EDT

— The work of North Carolina’s bloodstain pattern analysis program doesn’t have the stamp of approval from a national accrediting group, and the man taking over the State Bureau of Investigation wants to know why.

The State Bureau of Investigation has never sought accreditation for the program’s work from the American Society of Crime Lab Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board, said Ralph Keaton, executive director of the board.

“I have no idea why they haven’t,” said Keaton, who retired in 1995 as deputy assistant director of the SBI crime lab.

That’s one of the issues the new SBI director will look into, Noelle Talley, spokeswoman for the state Attorney General’s Office, said Wednesday in an e-mail. Greg McLeod, the legislative liaison for Attorney General Roy Cooper, is expected to take over the SBI next week.

Last week, Cooper suspended the work of the six agents who analyze bloodstain patterns. Talley didn’t immediately respond to a question about whether Cooper was concerned that the SBI had never sought accreditation for the program. She did say the program, which is part of the SBI’s field work, couldn’t be accredited as long it remains outside the lab’s purview because ASCLD/LAB only accredits crime labs.

North Carolina is not unusual in having a bloodstain pattern analysis program that is not accredited, Keaton said. But a report from the National Academy of Sciences last year recommends accreditation of anyone involved in forensic sciences as one way to eliminate differences among federal, state, and local law enforcement jurisdictions and agencies.

“It’s not been a focus of law enforcement agencies to go that route, but I think that’s going to change,” Keaton said.

Accreditation requires forensic laboratories to have and follow documented procedures in several areas, including training and competency testing of all personnel and a procedure for monitoring the testimony of all analysts who testify.

Cooper said last week he had asked the two former assistant directors with the Federal Bureau of Investigation who are investigating the lab to review cases involving the program. They agreed that the program’s work should be suspended temporarily until all issues involving the cases have been reviewed, Cooper said. He didn’t identify any of the cases.

One of the six agents certified in bloodstain pattern analysis works at the lab, Talley said. Bloodstain pattern analysis involves the examination of shapes, locations and distribution of blood to determine the physical events of a crime, such as evidence of a struggle.

Last week, Cooper named McLeod to take over the management of the lab from Robin Pendergraft, who defended the SBI’s work after the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission made a groundbreaking finding that inmate Greg Taylor was innocent in a 1991 slaying. Pendergraft will be head of the SBI’s newly expanded Medicaid fraud unit.

At the innocence hearing in February for Taylor, SBI Agent Duane Deaver testified that the SBI had a policy of writing on lab reports that a test showed “chemical indications for the presence of blood” even when a follow-up test didn’t confirm that result.

Identifying a substance as blood is separate from bloodstain pattern analysis.

Deaver, however, is among the six agents the SBI lists as being certified to conduct bloodstain pattern analysis. He declined comment Wednesday on any issues involving the SBI.