DOJ panel advised overturning Deaver's firing in 2011

jneff@newsobserver.comApril 3, 2014 


Duane Deaver, a former State Bureau of Investigation agent who is seeking to get his job back, testified before the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission in 2010.


— A retired State Bureau of Investigation agent testified Thursday that he was struck in 2010 by the multiple investigations of agent Duane Deaver, who is contesting his dismissal in a trial this week.

“Someone is trying to load up on this man,” testified Randy Myers, the agent. “I’ve never seen so many investigations on one man at one time.”

Myers had led the investigation into a complaint that Deaver had committed perjury in testifying before the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission in the case of Greg Taylor. There were also investigations into Deaver’s work as a bloodstain-pattern analyst and as a serologist in the SBI crime lab.

In 2010, a three-judge panel declared Taylor innocent of a murder for which he had served 17 years in prison. Deaver had failed to report the result of blood tests helpful to Taylor.

The perjury allegation centered on Deaver’s 2009 testimony about his work for the 1993 murder trial. In 2010, after Taylor’s exoneration, Myers interviewed the eight members of the Innocence Inquiry Commission, its executive director and a staff lawyer. One commissioner thought Deaver had perjured himself; one other thought Deaver’s testimony was misleading. The rest had no concern about his testimony, except for one commissioner who couldn’t remember Deaver’s testimony.

Myers wrote his report in September 2010. He said he was stunned two weeks later when he learned the commission formally charged Deaver with criminal contempt for misleading the commission.

“I was thinking, ‘Are y’all crazy?’ ” Myers testified. “ ‘I cannot believe you are doing that.’ 

Myers knew that his internal investigation for the SBI and its 10 witness interviews were favorable to Deaver and would have to be provided to Deaver and his lawyers.

“He will deserve this in his defense,” Myers testified at a hearing Thursday in the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings, which hears appeals from people with grievances against state agencies.

Reviewing the dismissal

A Superior Court judge dismissed the contempt of court charge in 2011 after a court-ordered mediation between Deaver and the commission.

Deaver was fired from the SBI in 2011 after a series of messy court cases, including a Johnston County murder case where a federal judge ruled that Deaver misled the jury about blood tests. A state judge subsequently ruled that Deaver committed perjury in the 2003 murder trial of Durham novelist Michael Peterson, who was awarded a new trial.

After Deaver was fired in January 2011, an internal committee in the attorney general’s office, which oversees the SBI, recommended overturning the dismissal.

Kristi Jones Hyman, chief of staff for Attorney General Roy Cooper, then rejected the recommendations of the five-person internal committee, composed of two lawyers from the attorney general’s office, two SBI agents and a contract manager. Hyman upheld Deaver’s dismissal.

The internal committee said the contempt charge was “nothing more than mere allegations. There has been no judicial disposition made of the motion, nor has Deaver had an opportunity to appear and present his defense.”

Hyman and SBI Director Greg McLeod testified Thursday that the charge was more serious than mere allegations, coming from the Innocence Inquiry Commission, an eight-person panel composed of judges, law enforcement officers and lawyers.

“It was shocking to me,” Hyman testified. She said she’d never heard of such a charge against an SBI agent.

Other incidents

The SBI cited two other reasons for firing Deaver:

• Deaver consulted on a case from Henderson County while on leave when he was being investigated; he also endorsed sending the confidential report in that case as part of an ethics complaint to an outside agency not authorized to receive the information.

The internal Department of Justice committee found the dispatch of the confidential report “was outside of Deaver’s control” and that he sent the report to a mentor training Deaver in the craft of producing criminal profiles. The mentor was approved to receive the profiles as they were drafted and prepared.

Hyman pointed out that SBI policy prohibits employees from filing such complaints without the permission of the SBI director.

“Deaver asked that his name not be included (in the complaint), which led me to believe he knew this was inappropriate,” Hyman said. “He knew this was improper.”

 In a video in which Deaver helped conduct a bloodstain pattern experiment, Deaver is heard saying “That’s a wrap, baby,” after his fellow agent manages to replicate a stain on a T-shirt.

SBI officials said the comment was unprofessional and hurt the credibility of the SBI for the jury in a Davie County murder trial. Deaver was not fired for the underlying experiment, which many bloodstain pattern experts have derided as pointless and unscientific.

The internal committee said the statement was ambiguous.

“It is just as plausible, as Deaver argued, that he was commenting on the success of the reconstruction of the stain,” the internal committee wrote. “Finally, the tone of Deaver’s remark was not excited or enthusiastic.”

Hyman said the remark was unprofessional, inappropriate and not neutral.

Deaver’s lawyers argue that his termination was political, as the SBI was under fire from a deluge of news articles.

Neff: 919-829-4516

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