Special Reports

SBI searches for new crime lab director

Jerry Richardson has been removed as chief of the SBI's crime laboratory.

New SBI director Greg McLeod, on his fifth day of the job, launched a nationwide search for Richardson's replacement.

"There are many challenges in the forensic sciences and with this search we can find the best professional to address them," McLeod said in a written release.

Richardson came to the lab more than two decades ago with no science education. He climbed the ladder at the SBI, and in 2002, was put in charge of the laboratory.

In recent weeks, in the face of questions from The News & Observer, Richardson struggled to explain lab policies and address problem cases.

Richardson is still employed at the lab, at least for the coming days.

"Jerry Richardson is a friend and has done good work, but we are moving forward," McLeod said.

McLeod said he would decide in the next few days what Richardson's future with the agency will be.

The lab director is an exempt position who serves at the pleasure of the SBI director. As a state employee with more than 20 years experience, he enjoys extra job protections.

Joining the panel to select a new lab leader is Seth Edwards, district attorney in Beaufort County and president of the Conference of District Attorneys and Phil Baddour, president of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice.

McLeod also removed from casework three analysts cited in a damning audit of the serology section released Wednesday. Another analyst, Duane Deaver, was suspended earlier this week pending a thorough investigation.

Two former FBI agents reviewed more than 15,000 cases involving blood analysis at the SBI dating back to 1987.

They flagged 230 cases in which eight analysts had withheld results of more sophisticated testing that suggested the evidence they tested was negative for blood.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys across the state began scrambling to determine whether the withheld evidence led to the convictions of innocent people.

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