Two former prisoners' lives, valued

August 15, 2013 

Thanks to agents of the State Bureau of Investigation, Greg Taylor and Floyd Brown spent 17 years and 14 years respectively in custody for murders of which they never should have been convicted. They’ll now have millions of dollars in settlements from the state to ease the years ahead, but that hardly compensates them for lives lost.

Taylor was convicted in 1993 of murdering a woman in East Raleigh, partly because an SBI lab report by blood analyst Duane Deaver suggested a substance found on his truck was blood. Deaver, who has been fired, did not report a subsequent test that showed there was no blood. Taylor was freed in 2010 after his case came before an independent innocence commission and three judges declared him innocent.

He’ll get over $4.5 million from the state.

Floyd Brown, mentally handicapped with an IQ of 50, was convicted of the 1993 murder of a retired teacher who was beaten to death in Anson County. His lawyers claimed his confession, taken down by SBI agent Mark Isley, was far too sophisticated for someone of Brown’s capability. Isley remains on the SBI payroll.

Brown will get almost $8 million from the state.

Attorney General Roy Cooper stopped far short of apologizing to these men. He said that the SBI had better investigative practices now and that, “It was in the best interest of the state to settle these cases.”

And maybe in the best interest of justice, too?

These two men lost their youths thanks to agents of the SBI. That is an outrage for which they can never be adequately compensated. State officials have been encouraged to offer profuse apologies, and that is not unreasonable, though it’s a little late for it now. Taylor is trying to cling to his family. Brown has a caretaker and presumably will not have to worry about finances in the future.

But let no one involved in prosecuting these two men believe that the debt for their “mistakes” is paid in full.

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