A Good Choice For SBI Panel
Moore County District Attorney Maureen Krueger struck just the right tone upon being chosen to help find a new director for the SBI lab.
"District attorneys have a special duty to seek justice, not just convictions," Krueger said. "Victims and defendants alike are entitled to the very best scientific evidence available so that the innocent shall not be unjustly punished nor the guilty be unjustly set free."
Justice, not just convictions. We couldn't have said it better ourselves.
Krueger is one of eight persons across the state named by Attorney General Roy Cooper and Greg McLeod, the new director of the State Bureau of Investigation, to assist in this all-important personnel search. It is a nice indication of the esteem in which she is held further up the line.
The need for such a selection panel - and for a new SBI lab director - could hardly be more starkly clear. In fact, there may need to be an altogether new lab. Or at least, as some have suggested, the existing one should probably be moved out from under the bureau's umbrella and given semi-independent status.
Convictions vs. Justice
The first public inkling that a major housecleaning might be in order came earlier this year, when it was learned that laboratory reports in some court trials had been altered to leave out complete blood test results. That revelation, made by an SBI lab analyst during testimony in an innocence hearing, resulted in the dramatic release of Greg Taylor, who had spent 17 years behind bars after being (wrongfully, as it turned out) convicted in the murder of a Raleigh woman.
In more recent months, there have been more shocking disclosures, largely on the pages of The News & Observer of Raleigh, which surely deserves to rank high in Pulitzer contention. It turns out that the Taylor incident was far from an isolated case. Many other lab workers have also altered or otherwise compromised evidence in dozens of other cases.
A big problem here, among others, is that the lab functions as an arm of law enforcement. And rightly or wrongly, law enforcement is sometimes seen as being more interested in convictions than in seeing impartial justice prevail. That perception itself hurts.
Beginning the Cleanup
Krueger said she was honored to be included in the search for a lab director, declaring: "Our system of justice demands good science along with good practices and an appropriate level of transparency."
Again, it would be hard to improve on those words. Yes, the administration of justice demands a relentless search to identify the perpetrators of heinous crimes and see that they receive the punishments they deserve. But when evidence begins to be doctored in the effort to bring about that end, then something has gone terribly wrong.
Krueger has also joined other DAs in calling for the state go a step further and carry out a complete audit of the SBI lab. Cooper has not yet indicated that he is willing to go that far, but why not? The SBI's image has been so befouled that only a ground-up investigation, carried out as openly as possible, can begin to clean it up.
"Transparency" is, indeed, the word.
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