SBI agent to face contempt hearing

Staff WritersOctober 8, 2010 

A judge has ordered a contempt of court hearing for SBI agent Duane Deaver after finding that he gave what appeared to be false and misleading testimony before the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission in 2009.

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

Superior Court Judge Quentin Sumner, who heads the commission, signed the order Thursday afternoon. It was not a surprise, given that the commission voted unanimously last Friday to proceed with the hearing.

Sumner could refer the hearing to another judge, because he could be a witness at the hearing. Whatever judge holds the hearing could also appoint a special prosecutor.

Deaver has been under 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 in the murder of Jacquetta Thomas.

In his lab report, Deaver withheld results of a sophisticated blood test indicating the substance was not blood. His report said 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.

The contempt hearing will focus on two exchanges between Deaver and the commission.

On Sept. 1, 2009, Deaver talked by phone with Kendra Montgomery-Blinn, the commission director. Going over his lab report, she asked whether he had performed any other tests: "Do you have anything in your bench notes to add to that report?"

Deaver said no and paused 96 seconds to review his bench notes.

Later that week, at a hearing before the commission, Deaver was asked whether he could not perform the confirmatory blood tests.

"That's correct," Deaver said.

At a hearing before a three-judge panel in February, Deaver changed his testimony: He said he had conducted the confirmatory tests and the results were negative.

Deaver testified at Taylor's exoneration hearing that the practice at the SBI was to not report confirmatory blood tests when the results were negative.

Philip Isley, Deaver's lawyer, said Thursday that his client will contest the contempt charge vigorously. Isley said that Deaver testified truthfully in September 2009 in response to Becton's question.

"Duane gave a confusing answer to a confusing question," Isley said.

Deaver was put on investigatory leave in August 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.

joseph.neff@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4516

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