State News

Prosecutors group wants full-scale audit of SBI lab

Posted August 27, 2010 3:23 p.m. EDT
Updated August 28, 2010 9:23 a.m. EDT

— The agency that supports district attorneys across North Carolina is calling on a full-scale audit of the state's top crime lab in light of an outside report last week that has called into question nearly 200 criminal convictions.

Seth Edwards, president of the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, on Friday called on Attorney General Roy Cooper to commission an audit of the entire crime lab of the State Bureau of Investigation, saying, "restoring the public’s confidence not only in the SBI lab, but our entire system of justice, is our paramount concern."

Last week's report, which focused only on the crime lab's blood stain analysis program, flagged 190 cases that resulted in convictions from 1987 to 2003 in which SBI analysts omitted, overstated or falsely reported information about blood evidence.

Edwards, who is district attorney in Beaufort, Hyde, Martin, Tyrrell and Washington counties, said that every case involving the SBI could be scrutinized unless an audit is performed.

“In essence, the district attorneys are advocating for the law-abiding citizens of North Carolina, and in particular, the victims of crime, for it will be this group that suffers mightily if the reputation of the SBI is not rehabilitated quickly,” he said.

Since last week's report, the crime lab's director has been relieved of his duties, and any SBI analysts identified in the review have been removed from their current caseloads.

SBI Director Greg McLeod also named eight people Friday, including Edwards, to an advisory group to help in a national search to find a new crime lab director.

The panel of law enforcement officials, defense attorneys and prosecutors also includes Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby, Moore County District Attorney Maureen Kreuger, defense attorneys Joe Cheshire and Phil Baddour, Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Quentin Sumner, Cabarrus County Sheriff Brad Riley and Cary Police Chief Pat Bazemore.

“These are people who care deeply about the criminal justice system and who will bring their expertise and experience to this search,” McLeod said in a statement. "We can consult with the scientific community and review needs inside and out of the SBI lab to find the best candidate."

Some defense attorneys and justice groups have called for the crime lab to be independent from the SBI, arguing, in part, that the lab seeks to build cases to support law enforcement's theories rather than seeking the truth.