SBI lab analysts taught in-house, away from peers

Staff WritersAugust 10, 2010 

Duane Deaver is the SBI's go-to man on bloodstain pattern analysis. He has been the principal training officer for 22 years and authored the training program and policy and procedure manual.

Yet Deaver, 51, is disconnected from his peers around the country - and from advances in the field.

Deaver has a degree in zoology from N.C. State. He's had two outside courses in bloodstain pattern analysis: a 1987 course with the Midwestern Association of Forensic Science and a 1988 course at Valencia College in Florida. Otherwise, his training has taken place at the SBI, where he is in charge of the program.

He has never been a member of the International Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysis or the International Association of Identification or the Scientific Working Group on Bloodstain Pattern Analysis.

Gerald Thomas, who worked on the cases against Kirk Turner and Donna Smith (see related story), trained with Deaver. Thomas, 39, has spent his career in police work, has a political science degree from Greensboro College and a master's in sociology from UNC-Greensboro. He has no science degree or class work in physics or chemistry, he testified in 2008.

All of Thomas' training has been in-state, either at the SBI or with the Guilford County sheriff. Thomas is one of six bloodstain pattern analysts at the bureau.

The SBI laboratory has been certified by ASCLD-LAB, an accreditation organization whose members include state and local crime lab directors. The group attempts to bring standards to forensic work at crime labs. Every five years, ASCLD-LAB sends a team of inspectors on loan from other crime labs to review policies, tour facilities and spot-check open cases.

ASCLD-LAB does not examine the work of Deaver, Thomas and other crime scene analysts because they are not assigned to the lab.

Accreditation does not mean a spotless record. ASCLD-LAB doesn't deny certification if the agency misses some marks. It waits for the agency to correct a problem, then issues a certification.

Practically every year the SBI crime lab has sought accreditation, it has had to fix policies or remediate a case. Still, it is in good standing with ASCLD-LAB.

"We bend over backwards to help labs get there. We want them to pass," said Ralph Keaton, head of ASCLD-LAB. Keaton went to work at ASCLD-LAB after retiring from the SBI crime lab in 1995 after 30 years of service.

Attorney General Roy Cooper suspended the work of bloodstain pattern analysts in late July, in response to problems raised by The N&O. He has ordered his new SBI director to examine the training and certification of those analysts.

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