State News

SBI agent accused of misleading innocence panel

Posted October 7, 2010 4:36 p.m. EDT
Updated October 7, 2010 8:44 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina’s innocence commission accused an agent with the state’s top law enforcement agency Thursday of intentionally misleading the panel during testimony in a landmark case that ended in exoneration.

A court motion filed in Wake County requests a hearing to decide whether State Bureau of Investigation Agent Duane Deaver should be held in criminal contempt. The commission believes Deaver failed to disclose all his blood testing on a key sample to the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission.

The motion focuses on confusing and seemingly contradictory comments Deaver gave to a commission investigator and testimony at a hearing last year into the murder conviction of Greg Taylor.

At first Deaver said during the hearing that a follow-up blood test on a sample was negative. Later, a commissioner sought clarification and Deaver appeared to say that he was unable to do a second test on the sample. Adding to the confusion is that the commissioner and Deaver appear to talk over each other during the question.

“As best we can tell, it appears that the Innocence Commission is trying to hold our client in criminal contempt for providing a confusing answer to a confusing question when the transcript clearly indicates that our client had definitively and accurately addressed the same topic in previous testimony,” Deaver’s attorney Philip R. Isley said in a statement.

At another hearing on the Taylor case this year, Deaver fully explained that a follow-up test on the sample provided a negative result.

Taylor was declared innocent after that second hearing.

Deaver’s testimony triggered fresh questions about the SBI lab’s policies and procedures, leading to an independent review that concluded SBI analysts had frequently misstated or falsely reported blood evidence during a 16-year period ending in 2003. The review called into question some 200 cases.

Deaver has since been placed on paid leave, pending the results of an SBI internal investigation.

Some egregious violations found during the inquest were linked to Deaver. In two of the cases, including one that ended in an execution, Deaver’s final report on blood analyses said his tests “revealed the presence of blood” when his notes indicated negative results from follow-up tests. His notes indicate that he got a negative result because he didn’t have enough sample left for the confirmatory test.

Kendra Montgomery-Blinn, the executive director of the Innocence Inquiry Commission, said in Thursday’s motion that Deaver also failed to disclose all the testing to her in a telephone conversation before the hearings.

“Agent Deaver’s failure to disclose all testing to Montgomery-Blinn during their telephone conversation demonstrates his willingness to mislead the Commission,” she wrote in the motion.