Acronyms are F'd Up - part one
F'd Up · 54 minutes ·

Acronyms are F'd Up - part one

Acronyms are F’d Up Pt. 1


Written by Brandi Abbott

In 1992, George Goode was at his home with his brother Chris and friend Eugene DeCastro. The landlord, Leon Batton, came by for rent and a verbal fight broke out outside between Chris, Eugene, and Leon. George was still in his trailer. The argument escalated really quickly - to the point that Chris and Eugene attacked Leon physically and ultimately stabbed him to death. Leon’s wife, Margaret, got a call that someone was attacking her husband and she rushed over – Chris and Eugene turned their attention to her and inexplicably killed this poor woman as well. George who had remained inside for the entire altercation was in shock and terrified but Chris and Eugene snapped him out of it and all three men fled. For whatever reason, Chris handed Leon’s wallet to George at some point - so evidently they had robbed him as well. George was arrested very quickly, shortly followed by his brother, and Eugene the next day. As they had no time to pop home and take a shower or anything, Chris and Eugene were still covered in blood when they were picked up. George had absolutely no blood on him; and the SBI Crime Lab at the time even verified this, but a knife was found near where he was arrested and he had Leon’s wallet and somehow he was charged with murder. George’s trial began in 1993 when Duane Deaver was a young up and comer, and he testified at the trial that there was “invisible blood” on George’s boots. No one asked if this was his initial test or confirmatory test, because at that time, no one knew to ask. No one asked about the coveralls George was wearing which had been tested by a different analyst and received negative results because the defense didn’t have access to the files. George and Eugene were sentenced to the death penalty, whereas Chris received life in prison, but as he was actually covered in blood, we aren’t sure why he received a lighter sentence. 

Diane Savage, who has been mentioned a few times so far in the podcast, was born and raised in New York and a bit of a troublemaker. She was kicked out of her family home at a very young age, but she was scrappy and got a job in a lab to provide for herself. After a few years of working there, the lab workers decided to unionize and she helped them. She also helped with community organizing. Stuff like this was what she really enjoyed and wanted to continue helping others. She decided law school was the way to go, and got in to Georgetown. During her time in Washington D.C., she met her now husband who received a job opportunity in North Carolina, so they relocated. When she first arrived in NC, she was told by a local that she had “three marks against her”. 1. That she was a Yankee, 2. That she went to a fancy school and, 3. That she was a woman.  

Diane’s first case as an attorney in North Carolina was George’s appeal. As we learned in the last episode, if you’re sentenced to death row, you’re appointed two defense attorneys. He got Diane and Lisa Williams. As Diane was reading through the case file, she noticed that there wasn’t a record of confirmatory tests. She had hired forensic expert, Marilyn Miller, and also had her lab background – and both women found the lack of secondary tests concerning. Note: This case was Marilyn’s first experience with Deaver and his shitty science. 

Phenolphthalein was the presumptive test that was used to confirm the alleged blood on George’s clothes. At the trial Diane questioned Deaver about his confirmatory tests, which were standard operating procedure in the SBI lab (even if reporting them was not), and Deaver claimed he didn’t do one. As evidenced throughout the podcast and in the Audit report, he always did a confirmatory test - so this was weird. 

The judge in this case didn’t like that Diane Savage was “living up to her last name”, according to Priya, and the DA didn’t like the way she was treating Deaver. According to Diane, Judge Jenkins told her that she engaged in character assassination and maligned elected public officials. He also told her that if she were correct about Duane Deaver, a grand jury should be convened and people prosecuted for perjury. Diane said that the judge struck the pleading over what she said about Deaver and she would have to start over again. He also took what’s called judicial notice to basically declare as “fact” that Duane Deaver was great.  To further prove his point, he reported Diane to the state bar for discipline. She was investigated and removed from her cases.Thankfully, she was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing. Priya pointed out that this was in 1997 and if people had listened to Diane then, they may have been able to shave 13 years off of a lot of people’s sentences and maybe even saved some lives (see: Death Row is F’d Up). 

ASCLD LAB was the only agency that had accredited the SBI Crime Lab as of 2010, and as the News and Observer stated, had missed all of the problems. They should have been aware of all of the mess the SBI had been concocting and should have stopped it. ASCLD LAB stands for The American Society of Crime Lab Directors Laboratory Accreditation Board, is not to be confused with ASCLD which is just the American Society of Crime Lab Directors. Confused yet? I sure am. 

As F’d Up has discussed, the NCSBI Crime Lab is closely intertwined with prosecutors and ASCLD LAB is much the same. ASCLD LAB HQ was located in Johnston County, NC - which was in close proximity to the executive director’s home.  In 2016, ASCLD LAB joined forces with an organization named ANAB, which stands for ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board. The hidden acronym in that one stands for American National Standards Institute- American Society for Quality. If your acronym is so long, it needs its own acronym, you have a problem. After the merger, ASCLD LABS and ANAB became just ANAB. 

When ASCLD was formed in 1974, their early goals were to address a quality control for labs and their practices, and it was decided that accreditation was the way to go. As ASCLD was not an accrediting body, ASCLD LABS was formed in 1982. Labs accredited by ASCLD LAB must be up to their standards and willing to be re-inspected on site every five years. The process for accreditation includes a tech or supervisor selecting at least five cases for review, which basically means the lab can pick whichever cases they want to be reviewed - and would obviously select their best cases. If a lab is found to be non-compliant, they have the opportunity to correct the issue. 

At some point after the audit, Chris Swecker told the News and Observer that it was thought that ASCLD LAB was infallible and it was surprising to him that they hadn’t gotten a better sense of what was going on in the SBI Crime Lab for all of those years. It was surprising to only him however, as the labs always knew that ASCLD LAB was coming for a review and were allowed to cherry-pick cases. According to a few articles, the SBI has repeatedly had to fix policies or correct cases in order to pass, but they always did pass and remain in good standing with ASCLD LAB. ASCLD LAB is quoted as saying that they often bend over backwards to help labs pass because they want them to pass. A defense lawyer Priya spoke with, who is part of the New York State Commission of Forensic Science, named Marvin Schechter wrote in a memo in 2011 that ASCLD LAB could more accurately be described as a product service organization that sells a seal of approval for a fee. This is something labs can use to bolster their credibility.

Marvin Schechter was in his office in New York when he got a call from a friend in D.C. that a commission was being formed to identify needs from forensic science. They wanted a well-rounded committee of lawyers, scientists, and judges with different perspectives of the needs of forensic science. They were missing a defensive attorney and Marvin’s friend recommended him. With this commission, he coauthored the National Academy of Science’s 2009 report titled “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward”. This report was a 350-page look at forensic science that identified the needs of the forensic science world and made recommendations to the forensic science community. 

One thing that the report didn’t look at was accrediting entities for forensic labs in the countries. People like Marvin began getting concerned about these entities, such as ASCLD LABS, because they seemed to have no concern about the blatant wrongdoing in the labs. He wrote a memo to the New York State Commission in March of 2011 that was a detailed analysis about ASCLD LAB and forensic laboratory accreditation which is what inspired Priya to reach out to him for F’d Up. What she learned from speaking to him was that around the same time as the audit and everything going on in NC after Greg Taylor’s exoneration, the SFPDCL (San Francisco Police Department Crime Lab) were garnering attention. A tech in the drug testing area had been stealing cocaine from the lab for personal use, and in May of 2010, the drug testing section was shut down. A whistleblower sent a letter in 2008 to a public defender and a letter in 2009 to ASCLD LAB revealing that there had been a DNA test tube mess-up by a tech that was covered up by a supervisor. In July of 2009, ASCLD LAB sent a letter to that supervisor who denied knowing anything about it. After investigating, verifying that there was a mixup, and finding out the files had been destroyed in an attempted cover-up, ASCLD LAB accredited that lab for another five years. In 2009, the NYSIG (New York State Inspector General), issued a report that mentioned the SDPDCL and its issues. It also mentioned a tech in the NYSPFIC (New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center) had fabricated fiber analysis evidence which occurred while the lab was being accredited by ASCLD LAB. A guy named Jay Jarvis who was on the ASCLD LAB board of directors, referred to this report in an article he had written, meaning they were aware of these issues. 

The gist of the excuses thrown around over these fuckups is that it’s “one guy in one lab”, but it’s not. There’s a pattern of, at minimum, gross negligence and at most, intentional lying. Duane Deaver is usually named in relation to the disaster that is the SBI Crime Lab and their audit, but as we’ve learned, he wasn’t the only one fucking up, just the one most often blamed. As you may remember, the NAS report in 2009 recommended that lab employees have a science background in biology or chemistry. 

And… Peter Duane Deaver graduated from North Carolina University with a degree in zoology in 1984. On December 1st, 1985, Deaver was hired by the SBI to work in the serology section of the SBI Crime Lab. Deaver attended the SBI Academy in March of 1986 and worked his first serology case in 1988. At that time a man named Mark Nelson was in charged of the serology department. In 2010, Deaver was involved with 50 of the 230 cases in the audit. When the audit was released, he was suspended with pay and advised that he was the subject of an administrative investigation. In January 2011, he was officially fired. One reason behind this was that he was asked to look over some evidence during his suspension in October of 2010 which was sanctioned by the SBI, but in late October, without permission, he assisted a criminal profiler with writing a complaint related to the case. He asked for his name to be taken off of this complaint as he wasn’t suppose to be working on it while on leave, but removing his name wasn’t legal.

Another reason was on September 3rd of 2009, Deaver told the IIC that there was no further testing in Greg Taylor’s case, but there had been. The last reason was his unprofessionalism in saying “that’s a wrap baby” at the end of the video where Gerald Thomas was trying to “shore up” evidence in Kirk Turner’s case. 

About a month after being fired, he met with SBI Director McLeod in an attempt to get his job back but was denied. He appealed his firing and the case went before the State Human Resources Committee. He claimed that he didn’t perjure himself at trial because he rushed through the file quickly in the car right before the hearing. He defended his performance in the video by claiming he didn’t know the sound would be on in the video. He presented the video he did with Suzi Barker in the Peterson case where she jumps up and down and pointed out that she was only reprimanded, whereas he was he fired. Essentially, everything Deaver had done was being done by everyone in the SBI Crime Lab. His lawyer brought up the fact that Deaver was the scapegoat for the SBI. Getting rid of him was a way to put the public’s mind at ease. The State Human Resources Commission came to the conclusion that the lesser disciplinary action of being demoted with a reduction in his salary would have been appropriate for Deaver. They noted, however, that on July 16th, 2013 Deaver was found to have presented false or misleading evidence for the Michael Peterson case and that would have been grounds for firing. Deaver was unfired in November of 2014 and reinstated into his previous position with two years of backpay and “all of the other benefits of continuous state employment”. He was fired again the same day he was unfired with a backdate of July 16th, 2013 which was the day his misconduct in the Michael Peterson case came to light.

Meanwhile, Suzi Barker is still employed with the SBI and Gerald Thomas has climbed the ladder to almost the top of the SBI. 

Essentially, as F’d Up has been saying this whole time, Duane Deaver isn’t the only problem, there are problems in labs all across America. Next week’s episode will delve more into those, more acronyms, the rest of George Goode’s case, and some tinfoil hat theories about Duane Deaver. 

Comments (0)

You Must Be Logged In To Comment

Similar podcasts

Crime Cats: True Crime

Lady Justice True Crime

True Crime

CATS: A True Crime Podcast

True Crime False Crime

True Consequences - True Crime

True North True Crime

True North True Crime