Ex-SBI agent cleared of contempt charge

But Deaver acknowledges 'confusing' testimony

Staff WritersSeptember 15, 2011 

Former SBI agent Duane Deaver picked up a courtroom victory Wednesday when a Superior Court judge dismissed a contempt of court charge alleging false and misleading testimony before the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission in 2009.

The commission set the contempt charge in motion, alleging Deaver gave the commission contradictory accounts of a blood test at the heart of the Greg Taylor case. The commission declared Taylor innocent in February 2010 after the Raleigh man had spent 17 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.

On Wednesday, Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith III dismissed the contempt charge following a court-ordered mediation between Deaver and the Innocence Inquiry Commission.

The nine members of the commission and the special prosecutor appointed to try the case agreed to dismiss the charges as part of a settlement with Deaver.

The settlement order contained the following admission from the former agent: "Deaver acknowledges the confusing nature of his testimony, and he understands how the Commission could have been misled."

Deaver has come under fire for the Taylor case, for a Johnston County murder case and for his leadership of the SBI's blood spatter pattern analysts, whose work has been shut down by Attorney General Roy Cooper.

The SBI fired Deaver in January. He and his lawyers say he was wrongfully fired and are fighting to get his job back.

The contempt charges center around the February 2010 exoneration of Taylor, the first time an independent body in the United States has declared a convicted offender to be absolutely innocent.

At Taylor's trial, prosecutors asserted 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 did not report the results of a confirmatory blood test that indicated 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.

Key statements

The charges centered 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.

Serious consequences for SBI

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. That testimony led Cooper to appoint an outside audit of the SBI blood analysis work.

The audit found more than 200 cases where the SBI had withheld or misreported the results of blood tests. The audit singled out five cases as the most serious; all were done by Deaver.

Deaver's attorneys declined to comment Wednesday.

Montgomery-Blinn, the Innocence Commission director, did not return phone calls for comment.

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

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