The N&O was sooooo proud of their investigative exposé of the NC State Crime Lab — a division of the attorney general’s office. Of course, that was before they knew (a) a Republican would win the 2012 governor’s race and (b) Attorney General Roy Cooper — the overseer of said mess — would run for governor.
Here in the heat of the 2016 governor’s race, the crime lab scandal has earned barely a mention. Perhaps it was to aid Cooper’s campaign? Or perhaps it was based on sensitivities regarding a pending lawsuit against the paper over its work on that investigation.
Anyway — surprisingly — The ol’ Reliable has a little bit more on the mess at Roy Cooper’s crime lab:
After an avalanche of bad publicity about the State Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab six years ago, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced changes on more than two dozen occasions about how the lab would operate.
But one assessment of the lab stayed private: a report produced by an independent accreditation agency in December 2010. Among other things, the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors found problems with the way the ballistics lab – and one of its analysts – was documenting its work.
Only now, during a lawsuit brought against The News & Observer by that analyst, Beth Desmond, has that report surfaced. It has potential ramifications in the campaign for governor, where Cooper, a Democrat, faces incumbent Republican Pat McCrory.
Desmond sued The N&O, which had written about her analysis of bullet casings and fragments for a murder trial, and reported that her testimony in that trial exceeded what she had written in her lab report. The N&O story also reported that some experts questioned her work in the case.
The lab had no record to indicate whether internal procedures were followed when a defense expert questioned the lab’s work. The ASCLD report concluded that in the ballistics division, three “essential criteria in the 2008 ASCLD/LAB accreditation manual do not meet accreditation requirements.”
“Based on the examination documentation in the case record, the inspection team was unable to determine whether or not the bullets were fired from a Hi-Point 9mm caliber pistol,” the report said. “In short, it is not possible to determine if the firearms examiner had sufficient information available to support the documented conclusions (report) and testimony.”
Law enforcement, prosecutors, and victims depend on the work of this lab to ensure justice is meted out in our state’s courtrooms. Cases have been dismissed or overturned as a result of this scandal. People have been wrongly jailed.
[…] In a written response to ASCLD, lab director Joe John Sr. defended his agency. He said the SBI manual didn’t require sketches or photographs for firearms analysis and that the test Desmond hadn’t performed could have subsequently been done by another examiner to evaluate her work. He also said that while the agency had a policy on how to respond when another forensics expert calls the lab’s work into question, in this case it was defense attorneys and the newspaper challenging the work.
Interestingly, lab director John is on the ballot this year as a Democrat in a Wake County state House race.
The report was part of the fallout from a series of stories in The News & Observer in August 2010 about problems at the SBI and the crime lab, including its propensity to favor the prosecution rather than to work as a finder of fact. Shortly after that, an audit was released that Cooper had commissioned to review cases that had involved blood evidence. It found problems with 230 cases.
So, under Roy Cooper’s watch, the state’s chief authority for criminal evidence analysis has suffered critical blows to its credibility. This all hit the fan in 2010. Cooper has been attorney general since 2001.
The General Assembly yanked the SBI from Cooper’s jurisdiction, but he STILL has the crime lab.
Roy Cooper has a great talent for jumping in after everything has blown up and portraying himself as the driver of the investigation / audit / reform. (See Nifong, Mike; Duke lacrosse; Operation Tarnished Badge; Mike Easley and John Edwards corruption cases, among others.)
Cooper has done little but campaign for governor since winning reelection in 2012. He hasn’t stood up for our state in court — HIS JOB — on a number of lawsuits the leftist hordes have attacked us with.
Cooper has been the perfect party man / apparatchik while in Raleigh. He’s had fun — and done little of substance. He did his duty as a good Democrat in the state Senate, and got rewarded with a promotion to the DOJ.
Pat McCrory hasn’t exactly set the world on fire the last four years. But you’re dreaming if you think Roy Cooper has all the answers. Somebody who waits around for stuff to blow up in the media before acting is not what we need.