State News

Interim chief of SBI crime lab backs away from job

Posted September 29, 2010 1:32 p.m. EDT
Updated September 30, 2010 11:41 a.m. EDT

— The man appointed to temporarily oversee North Carolina’s embattled crime lab is no longer going to take the job, leaving the agency without a leader as it tries to rebuild its reputation.

Gerald Arnold, a former chief judge of the state Appeals Court, said Wednesday he realized after offering to help that he wouldn’t be able to handle a job with such a large time commitment.

A spokeswoman for the attorney general said officials were frustrated by the development.

“I went home and thought about it and realized I really just didn’t have the time,” Arnold said. “I just felt like maybe I was taking on more than a 70-year-old man was up to right now.”

Attorney General Roy Cooper appointed Arnold earlier this moth to serve as interim director of the State Bureau of Investigation crime lab. Cooper wanted Arnold to lead a review of all sections of the crime lab to ensure that results were accurate and properly reported.

“The key here is going to be to make sure we solve the problems, restore the public confidence in the SBI and move forward with them solving crimes, protecting the public and exonerating innocent people,” Cooper said in a news conference three weeks ago, announcing Arnold’s appointment.

Arnold said Wednesday he was unaware of the news conference and said he should have asked leaders to slow down on the appointment process. He added that he was impressed by Cooper and other SBI officials.

An independent review of serology unit cases released last month called for a thorough examination of 190 criminal cases, stating information that could have helped defendants was sometimes misrepresented or withheld.

Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman for Cooper, said in a statement that officials were “frustrated with this unfortunate development” but believe they have found a replacement who could be confirmed soon.

"Day-to-day operations at the lab continue to be led by a management team under the direction of SBI Director (Greg) McLeod, which has been the case since a national search for a new permanent lab director began last month," she said.