At North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation, most forensic scientists are cops. So are their bosses. Their bosses’ bosses are prosecutors, the chain stopping at Attorney General Roy Cooper. The Raleigh News & Observer, in the third of a series, says this arrangement often forces analysts to become advocates, in lock step with police and prosecutors, shaping evidence needed to deliver a conviction.
Inside the lab, which produces forensic science analysis for police and sheriffs, analysts push past the accepted bounds of science. The problem is prevalent, a review of lab policy, procedures and questionable decisions in at least a dozen cases shows. The lab’s work has been under fire since February, when Greg Taylor, an innocent man, was freed after judges learned an lab serologist withheld crucial evidence that proved a stain on Taylor’s SUV wasn’t blood. Problems run deeper than blood. State law puts scientists at the lab on the prosecution’s team, instead of assigning them as independent seekers of fact. Analysts sometimes don’t run DNA or blood tests that might threaten prosecutors’ theories. And they shield themselves from scrutiny, fighting against turning over records and forbidding defense experts from observing their work.