Saunders

Saunders: Inmates line up for gifts from disgraced SBI blood-spatter expert

Staff columnist - bsaunders@newsobserver.comJanuary 23, 2012 

Until a few weeks ago, you probably thought that I was the baddest Santa you'd ever seen. That was before Duane Deaver.

As Santa Claus, I merely handed out candy canes and promises.

Deaver, a former SBI agent, is about to, it seems, hand out a bunch of "get out of jail" cards to convicted murderers in whose trials he offered - tee-hee - expert testimony.

It became obvious who was the more generous St. Nick when convicted murderer Michael Peterson stood beaming in front of television cameras outside the Durham County jail days before Christmas, freed on bail after troubling questions emerged about Deaver's qualifications and the validity of his testimony that prosecutors used to send Peterson and other defendants up the river and, in some cases, to death row.

What was it Louis XV said? "After me, the deluge"?

Same thing here: After Peterson, there'll likely be a deluge of inmates clamoring for new trials, thanks to Deaver.

For years, prosecutors who felt their cases needed bolstering rushed to get Deaver to do that voodoo that he do - or did - so well. An N&O story reported that Wake County prosecutor Susan Spurlin gushed in a letter to Deaver: "It was only after seeing you testify in State vs. Sharoid Wright ... that we determined that evidence missing in our presentation could be overcome with your knowledge and your ability to educate a jury on blood spatter. We thank you and credit you with the presentation at sentencing that gave us the evidence to convince a jury that Fernando Garcia is not worthy of another chance in society."

Garcia is not worthy of such a chance - even by Garcia's own admission he's guilty of murder and his crime was heinous - but the state shouldn't have to depend on bogus expertise to put him away.

"It goes to the issue of credibility," NCCU Law School Professor Irv Joyner said last week. "When you find that person, an expert, has tainted himself, that can discredit everything he says. ... That's the unfortunate thing about presenting this so-called junk science that has no scientific validity."

Another unfortunate thing is that enough evidence existed to free Greg Taylor - he did nearly two decades for murder based in large part on Deaver's lab reports - or to convict Garcia and others without Deaver's testimony, testimony that may turn out to be as efficacious as reading possum entrails or dried chitlins spread out on a gunny sack.

It's likely that nothing since the introduction of conjugal visits has brought North Carolina inmates more joy than Attorney General Roy Cooper's decision to cease using bloodstain pattern analysis.

Although it's unlikely anyone will be penning any reverential songs comparing Deaver to three of the greatest Americans, a line from the 1968 song "Abraham, Martin and John" may sum up Deaver's career: "He freed a lot of people" - or will.

Saunders: Tell Barry what you think at 919-836-2811 or bsaunders@newsobserver.com

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