Acronyms are F'd Up - part two
F'd Up · 52 minutes ·

Acronyms are F'd Up - part two

Acronyms are F’d Up P. 2
Written by Brandi Abbott

Continuing from where the last episode left off, George Goode - who was sentenced to death after being convicted of murder - was thankfully granted an additional hearing in 2004. Judge Jenkins, who had filed the complaint against Attorney Diane Savage, recused himself, and Goode’s case was heard by a new judge. Diane obtained the SBI lab notes which revealed that the alleged blood on George’s coveralls was actually grease. Not blood. The case file didn’t include a confirmatory test of the “invisible” blood on George’s boots. DNA testing revealed that profiles were obtained, but it was most likely due to a transfer. All of the evidence from George’s case was crammed together in a bin, including the bloody tailgate from the victim’s truck and the clothes worn by George’s brother and friend which were covered in the victims’ blood. An article from the Winston-Salem Journal stated that DNA testing wasn’t part of the original case against Goode and that, before the hearing, the state asked to have George’s coveralls, which had tested negative for blood in 1992, retested. This time, blood from both of the victims was found, most likely because they had been in a bin with other objects covered in the victims’ blood.

People in the scientific community were shocked by this mishandling of evidence. Some said they might have tested George’s coveralls or boots but would have done control tests and reported the likelihood of contamination. The SBI Crime Lab did not run control tests. They had one of their fiber experts examine the coveralls with a microscope. He concluded that the stains were blood that had soaked into the garment at the time of the crime, but he never used chemicals to confirm that the substance he was examining was actually blood. The deputy director of the SBI’s Crime Lab at that time, William Weis, told the Winston-Salem Journal that what another lab would do in a case described to them may be completely different than what they would do, as the SBI Crime Lab are looking at the evidence and the others are not. He said he believed they should rely on the evidence presented in court. The issue with that way of thinking, is the confirmatory tests were not included in the evidence presented, therefore the evidence presented in court is misrepresented. You may remember from the last episode, Deaver said he hadn’t done a confirmatory test on George’s shoes, which was suspicious and out of character for him. At the trial, he referred twice to the “blood” he found as if he were sure that’s what he had found, and during the hearing, the DA said that they had proved George was “literally up to his ankles in the blood of both victims.” Diane rhetorically asked The Journal how a prosecutor could say someone is up to their ankles in blood if there was never a test for blood. She was extremely upset about everything happening, and she and other attorneys lodged complaints with ASCLD LAB.

Complaints to ASCLD LAB in 2011 needed to be submitted in writing. All complaints of labs were to be directed to their executive director, Ralph Keaton, and receipts of the complaint would be confirmed within 20 days. However according to Marvin Schechter, the New York attorney Priya spoke with, there was no procedure for follow up with these complaints. The complaint ends with an ASCLD LAB board vote. If 2/3 of the vote can’t be reached, the case is dismissed, and the complainant must be notified.

On October 5th, 2004, Diane sent a few letters of complaint about the SBI to Ralph Keaton. She’d called and had a conversation with him and was directed to put her complaints in writing. She wrote one letter detailing everything about George Goode’s case and in another letter mentions that the phenolphthalein test used out of date chemicals. She then wrote about Brenda Bissette’s testimony. Bissette swore under oath that she’d had no knowledge of how the evidence had been stored, but Diane showed Brenda photos of her standing directly next to the evidence in the bin, and she corrected her testimony on the witness stand. This was not the first case Marilyn Miller had encountered Bissette co-mingling evidence on. In the evidence for George’s case, there was a pair of pants with blood in different areas. The cuttings from each area were all packed together in one evidence bag, leaving great potential for cross contamination. This should have rendered the cuttings inadmissible. Diane wrote in her complaint that SBI Crime Lab Deputy Director Jerry Richardson stated that he knew nothing of the condition of the evidence’s packaging, that it was Bissette’s responsibility, and admitted that Bissette saw the evidence before it went to the lab.

In 2009, a judge reprimanded SBI Blood Stain Pattern Analyst, Duane Deaver, for misleading the jury in George’s case by referring to the substance on George’s clothes as blood as if it were fact. After the audit in 2010, Diane wanted a new trial for George, especially since he had been mentioned in the audit. George was not given a new trial but was given a resentencing hearing where it was determined he’d had ineffective council in the original hearing. His sentence was reduced from death to life in prison. All of the money wasted by an innocent man being on death row for 20 years could have been spent a multitude of ways that would actually help the community. They could have even used it to retest old evidence with the newer science that’s become available since the initial trial. George Goode, with no evidence linking him to the murders, is still in prison to this day.

There was no national database that kept track of labs that incurred infractions or were involved in scandals. Various newspapers had reported on 50 labs, 28 of which where ASCLD LAB accredited. Marvin Schechter’s memo cites 11 states where their lab failures encompass different forms: there were mistakes in the identification of fibers, destroyed blood samples, DNA contamination, failure to perform maintenance and calibration, mix up of key physical evidence, faking calibration dates, false credentials, and many more. Marvin cites the NC SBI Crime Lab as one of the worst in terms of failures. ASCLD LAB accredited that lab five times during the time all of these errors were being made. After the audit was released, ASCLD LAB issued statements basically amounting to “that was then, this is now,” which seems to be what we keep hearing. They also appointed a new president, although it’s unclear if it was related to the audit. The new president said that the confirmatory results that proved substances weren’t blood “weren’t hidden” and that they were “in the notes.” Oh sure. In the notes where no one could see them except the shady lab techs, definitely qualifies as “not hidden.” ASCLD LAB flat-out rejected that lab reports issued by forensic serologists were inaccurate, misleading, intended to hide information, and essentially chose to ignore the findings of the audit. Ignoring and finding no issue with all of the shoddy practices done by the SBI Lab only enables the potential for all of this to happen again.

For the resentencing hearing in George’s case, Diane was working with an attorney named Bill Garrens. Bill had a special interest in this case because he had had his eye on Deaver since around 1989 when there was a murder case that Bill had been the defense attorney on. When interviewed for this podcast, Bill said the case was a brutal beating with a baseball bat to the victim’s head, and his client claimed he was a bystander. Deaver had been at the SBI Crime Lab for about four years at this time, and he knew he needed to do a reconstruction of the crime scene. Deaver went to a gymnasium, put up a sheet, put down something similar to parchment paper, put pumpkins on the parchment paper, grabbed a bat and “went to town.” Bill raised concerns about the science behind smashing pumpkins in 1989 and the judge agreed with him, refusing to show Deaver’s recreation in court. Two things to be noted are that concerns with Deaver had been brought up as early as 1989 and that Bill, as a male attorney who was not a Yankee, was allowed to criticize Deaver with no repercussions, while Diane faced disbarment when she did it. Also, according to the News and Observer, the reason it was ruled that George had had ineffective council, was because his attorney had not raised concerns about Deaver… the very thing Diane had been punished for doing.

In the last episode, it was said that the executive director for ASCLD LAB, Ralph Keaton, wanted the headquarters to be in North Carolina because he lived there. Well, prior to joining ASCLD LAB, he was the assistant crime lab director of the NC SBI Crime Lab until 1995. In fact, he wasn’t the only former-SBI Crime Lab employee: there were two others, John Neuner and Michael Creasey. Keaton stated that they recused themselves from matters related to the NC SBI Crime Lab. However, every article Priya has read has comments from Keaton on the SBI lab. The News and Observer reported that around the time the audit was released or about to be released, he said that he didn’t think there was a large number of cases that had a miscarriage of justice and that the absence of evidence isn’t evidence of innocence. Neuner defended ASCLD LAB by saying they had suspended labs and put labs on probation, but he couldn’t say which ones because they don’t keep up with it. Neuner’s predecessor attributed the infrequency of suspensions or dismissals to the fact that labs accredited by ASCLD LAB are simply of “high quality.” This seems pretty unlikely, considering all of the mistakes coming out of the SBI Crime Lab, and how closely the staff of both ACLD LAB and the SBI Crime Lab commingled. In 2007, the serology unit was in trouble due to testing proficiency and was moved out from under the oversight of ASCLD LAB.

Priya says that she’s of the opinion that Keaton and his cronies recommended that the SBI Crime Lab get the serology unity away from oversight. She implies it was a “real bro culture” out there and that judges protect DAs and analysts. That everyone was buddies who help each other out, leaving defense attorneys as the only people who are looking out for their client. If ASCLD LAB isn’t putting in proper procedures to make sure that the labs are operating as they should: in a manner designed to help carry out justice, it’s no surprise that injustices have happened. Jess says that it seems like ASCLD LAB was designed to prevent injustices but instead was perpetuating them. Ralph Keaton was the one to encourage Duane Deaver to start teaching classes at the SBI Crime Lab. So basically, the executive director of the accrediting body for the SBI Lab was responsible for getting their most public purveyor of fuckups started.

Priya says one thing she’s noticed in all of her research is that Deaver was always by the book. He lied and cheated, but in a manner that was approved of by the SBI. There were two times he actively straight up lied. Once was in 2009 before the panel in Greg Taylor’s case. He claimed he hadn’t thoroughly reviewed the file and hadn’t lied on purpose. There’s credible evidence to support this as he approached one of the DA’s after the hearing and said that a confirmatory test had been done and it was negative. He was the person who let people know it was there. Priya’s conspiracy theory is that Deaver lied in 1997 at George Goode’s appeal when Diane asked about the confirmatory test and he said he didn’t do one. She says that in all of research she’s done on him and interviews and trials she’s watched or read, she’s noticed that he doesn’t tend to remember many of the cases he’s been involved with. The two he brings up regularly are Greg Taylor’s and George Goode’s. He often brings up George’s case, including in a 2013 deposition when he was fighting to get his job back. This case really sticks out to him and not doing a confirmatory test was really out of character. Priya thinks that even though withholding the results of confirmatory tests was sanctioned at this time, Deaver knew it was wrong. She thinks he did a confirmatory test, that he knew the results, they were in his written notes and that he guessed that Diane was going to ask about it. She thinks he brought this up to his superiors and was scared. She points out that around this time, a superior had ordered a lab tech to destroy evidence in Daniel Green’s case, and that it wouldn’t be a leap to think the SBI lab would be freaked out at the idea of a defense attorney asking for the results of that test - especially since 10 years later, people still didn’t know that they even did confirmatory tests. Priya thinks that the confirmatory test was done and the record of it was destroyed. As F’d Up has mentioned before, the practices in the SBI Lab were originally unwritten policy. Deaver’s superior sent out a memo saying if an initial test for blood and saliva was positive but confirmatory tests were not, they should say that evidence showed chemical evidence for their presence. And this is when this kind of reporting became written policy. Priya says she believes that the SBI Crime Lab covered up Deaver’s lie and made an entire policy to “really drill it home,” because they always looked out for their guys and themselves.

Next episode is the finale and F’d Up will be exploring reforms, recommendations for change and one last F'd Up case.

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