North Carolina is the latest in the ongoing series of scandals from state crime labs. Last week, Attorney General Roy Cooper suspended the unit that handles bloodstain pattern analysis after it emerged that the State Bureau of Investigations changed reports and testimony to match prosecutors theories on what had occurred in a murder scene. This latest case of questionable results began in the fall of 2007 when county prosecutors studied a suspicious bloodstain in a crime scene photograph, looking for evidence that Kirk Turner intentionally slashed his wife's throat with a pocketknife. Turner, a dentist, claimed that he acted in self-defense; however, prosecutors noticed a V-shaped stain on Kirk Turner's T-shirt. Prosecutors met with SBI Bloodstain pattern analysts who altered testimony and reports to match the prosecutors' theories. The men further conducted a series of "tests" to attempt to justify their results. One analyst stuck steadfastly to the story, even after it became clear that he had filed an erroneous account of the crime scene.
Testimony from the SBI has come under questioning in three other cases recently, most notably after one man was freed after seventeen years and another after fourteen years. Both convictions relied heavily on blood stain evidence from the SBI crime lab that turned out to be unreliable.
In the fall of 2007, Davie County prosecutors studied a suspicious bloodstain in a crime scene photograph, looking for evidence that Kirk Turner intentionally slashed his wife's throat with a pocketknife.
Turner, a Kernersville dentist, said he killed Jennifer Turner in self-defense after she attacked him with a 7-foot spear. But prosecutors noticed a V-shaped stain on Kirk Turner's T-shirt.
They charged Turner with murder, and then turned to the State Bureau of Investigation to help prove their theory: Turner killed her, wiped the knife on his shirt, then staged the scene by ramming the 18-inch blade through his thigh, twice.Quantcast
Bloodstain pattern analysts Gerald Thomas and his mentor, Duane Deaver, embraced the prosecutors' theory.
Thomas quietly changed his initial report, which was consistent with self-defense. After a renowned bloodstain pattern expert disagreed with Thomas, Deaver and Thomas conducted unscientific tests to shore up the prosecution.
Thomas stuck steadfastly to the story, even after it became clear that he had filed an erroneous account of the crime scene.
Last year, a jury quickly acquitted Turner. The foreman said jurors were stunned by the SBI's conduct.
"Politically, socially, religiously, I'm conservative; I'm a law-and-order man," said Landon Potts, an insurance claims adjuster. "But I don't know what other word to use but a fraud."
Deaver is a major character in the emerging story of the SBI's troubles. His withholding of evidence contributed to three judges in February declaring Greg Taylor innocent of a 1991 murder and freeing him from life in prison. Attorney General Roy Cooper then ordered an audit of the blood analysis unit.
At the bureau's crime labs, where Deaver has been a key agent and trainer, analysts charged with using science to solve crimes have hidden test results or concocted bizarre experiments to shore up a prosecutor's case, a News & Observer investigation reveals.
Deaver and Thomas are among at least 10 SBI agents and analysts who have tailored their investigations to please prosecutors, ignored key evidence or locked on to suspects who turned out to be innocent.