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Bias Allegations in SBI Crime Lab Leads Lawmakers to Propose Changes

The crime lab of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) is under fire due to fraud allegations. A number of defendants are challenging their convictions due to misconduct by lab technicians who allegedly tampered with evidence, changed police reports and created test results to coincide with prosecutors' versions of cases. In light of these allegations, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper is deeply concerned about the influence of prosecutors on SBI science agents. Seth Edwards, president of the North Carolina Conference of Prosecuting Attorneys says that "[a]t this point, everything is up for discussion at SBI."

The turmoil stems from fraudulent reports from two SBI analysts who allegedly shaped their findings to support prosecutors' needs. Analyst Duane Deaver testified that the crime lab had a policy of withholding critical blood tests in lab reports. Investigators later found that the SBI engaged in a 16 year pattern of aiding prosecutors by misrepresenting blood test results and keeping notes from defense attorneys. With this discovery, a critical element of the criminal justice system has been compromised. It calls into question the integrity of the results in DUI tests, drug cases, and sexual violence inquiries.

North Carolina lawmakers are calling for a complete overhaul of the system, with control of SBI going to the Attorney General's office. Currently, the bureau is staffed primarily with law enforcement officers. This composition suggests that a bias towards prosecution taints many investigations. As such, many North Carolina democrats suggest that SBI be an independent organization with no perceived loyalties to prosecutors or defense attorneys.

The Innocence Project, a non-profit litigation and public policy organization that represents wrongfully convicted defendants, has long proposed that crime labs such as North Carolina's SBI be subject to federal oversight. It suggests that an agency similar to the Food and Drug Administration would be able to set and enforce guidelines in quality assurance, certification of practitioners and assess the validity and reliability of forensic tests.

In the meantime, hundreds of cases could be revisited based on faulty forensic tests. If you have questions about how your case may be defended, or whether a conviction may be challenged based on the latest SBI revelations, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.

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