The phrasing of North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation lab reports from the 1980s to 2003 caused a lot of ruckus in 2010, raising the question of whether North Carolina’s practices that helped prosecutions were common to crime labs across the country. The Raleigh News & Observer reports that they were not. The North Carolina state lab was less forthcoming about results of blood tests than others, including the FBI crime lab, found a study this year of eight other labs.
All but one wrote reports that would have conveyed the results clearly to a nonscientific audience, unlike the North Carolina lab’s work, which hid negative tests for blood on key evidence. “Based on our limited survey, the other laboratories had a policy favoring disclosure,” said Chris Swecker, one of two former FBI top managers who conducted the audit. “That only makes sense. It’s right legally, and for fundamental fairness it’s the right thing to do.” In February, a three-judge panel declared Greg Taylor innocent of a 1991 murder, in part because of a NC state lab report that withheld the results of blood tests favorable to Taylor. A subsequent independent audit identified 229 similar cases where crucial test results were withheld or not reported. The first of those 229 cases reached a courtroom this month, when a judge dismissed all charges against a man imprisoned for 12 years. The judge said the lab report deprived the man of the results of critical blood tests.