Innocence panel to examine contempt charge against SBI agent

Staff writersOctober 1, 2010 

The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission decided Friday to hold a hearing to decide whether SBI Agent Duane Deaver should be held in in contempt of court for testimony and statements he made to the commission last September.

At this hearing, a date for which has not been set, Deaver must convince a judge to not hold him in criminal contempt.

Kendra Montgomery-Blinn, executive director of the commission said this afternoon that their decision to pursue a contempt hearing was based on Deaver's statements to them over many months.

The eight member commission was unanimous in its decision Friday. Montgomery-Blinn will submit a request for the contempt hearing to Superior Court Judge Quentin Sumner, who chairs the Innocence Commission.

It is likely Sumner will grant the motion for the hearing, since he voted in favor of the motion Friday.

Sumner could refer the hearing to another judge, since he could be a witness at the contempt hearing. Whatever judge holds the hearing could also appoint a special prosecutor, as was done in the contempt hearing for disgraced Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong. A judge found Nifong in contempt for his conduct in the Duke lacrosse case, and sentenced him to 24 hours in the Durham County jail.

Deaver had been the source of scrutiny since February, when a three-judge panel exonerated Greg Taylor. Among the most significant evidence dismantled during a hearing to determine Taylor's innocence: an assertion that blood had been found on Taylor's SUV in 1991 when he was arrested for the murder of Jacquetta Thomas.

Deaver had withheld results of sophisticated blood test indicating the substance was not blood. The report he submitted to prosecutors said that several areas of the truck gave "chemical indications for the presence of blood." The jury was told repeatedly during Taylor's 1993 trial that there was blood on his SUV.

In February, Deaver testified at Taylor's exoneration hearing that it was practice at the SBI to not report results of confirmatory blood tests.

Deaver's testimony months before during a hearing before the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission was starkly different. He told commissioners that he had performed no additional tests beyond a preliminary, presumptive tests. His bench notes, not available when Taylor was convicted in 1992, indicate he performed several confirmatory blood tests. Some of them gave negative results.

SBI officials said earlier this summer that no agents or lab analysts had ever been charged with perjury.

Deaver was put on investigatory leave last month while SBI officials look into his role in Taylor's case and dozens of others deemed faulty by an auditor. He remains on paid leave.

Last month, two former FBI officials released an audit of the SBI blood analysis unit finding a wide-spread practice of withholding results of more sophisticated blood tests. A total of 229 cases were identified as being tainted by this practice.

Deaver was the analyst on the five cases auditors deemed the most egregious.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service