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AG Cooper updates progress at State Crime Lab
Written by David Horn   
Tuesday, 02 August 2011 10:21

(RALEIGH) --  Following the results of an independent review, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper reviewed State Crime Lab practices dating back to late 1980’s.  Cooper said on Tuesday that the State Crime Lab continues to solve crimes and make improvements as part of its mission to serve the criminal justice system and protect the public.

“Quality work by the crime lab is critical to solving crimes and ensuring justice for victims and suspects,” said Cooper said. “I expect the SBI to keep pursing the highest standards and the latest science.”

Cooper said progress is being made to strengthen the lab's work.  Efforts continue to achieve accreditation under the more stringent ISO standards. "Already the drug chemistry section is operating under ISO sampling standards, and other sections are being brought online with eventual full operation expected later this year," said Cooper. Such a move will allow the lab to be accredited by two outside organizations, becoming one of the first such to have dual ISO accreditation, according to Cooper.

Other efforts include additional external certification for all SBI forensic scientists in their individual disciplines, including external peer review. Cooper has eliminated the SBI field agent bloodstain pattern analysis program which had been suspended last July. Full legal review of all lab operations have been completed, including policies, training and procedures and full-time legal counsel has been assigned to the lab.

Two independent audits of the lab’s DNA unit have been completed. Cooper said the lab was found to meet the highest national standards. An on-site review of the SBI Firearms Unit was also conducted by a team of outside experts in late 2010 and the SBI is awaiting final results.

The complete list of progress updates at The State Crime Lab were outlined in a release from the State Department of Justice:

· Cameras in place for use in the Firearms Section and working with the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) to draft procedures to integrate this new technology into ISO policies with full implementation expected later this year. Additionally, an independent analysis of evidence in a Pitt County case has confirmed the analysis of an SBI examiner.

· Solicited nominations for members of an advisory board for the lab made up of science professionals.

· All lab reports and bench notes provided to prosecutors for sharing with defendants through the discovery process. Improvements to the Forensic Advantage system are also underway to make document retrieval easier.

· Transmitted to District Attorneys complete files on past cases identified in the independent review and subsequent Crime Lab legal review.

· Expanded process for soliciting feedback from courtroom personnel on forensic scientists’ court testimony.

· Formed a partnership with NC State University, Fayetteville State University and Wake County CCBI to establish a Center for Forensic Science Excellence here in North Carolina and are awaiting approval for federal funding from the National Institute of Justice.

· Conducting a national search for a permanent lab director who has a scientific background. An advisory committee made up of prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement, and judicial officials has worked with an executive search firm to identify candidates, conduct interviews and recommend names to the Attorney General and SBI Director.

· Developing a process for making all lab policies, procedures, training materials and accreditation information available to the public online.

· Providing advanced courtroom testimony training for our field and laboratory personnel.

· Providing additional forensic science training for the criminal justice system, including training for both state prosecutors and defense attorneys. The initiative also seeks to present informational sessions for the State’s trial judges and is exploring opportunities to work with state bar groups to developing a forensic science continuing legal education (CLE) seminar.

· Exploring a “Visiting Scientist” Forensic Science Program at the laboratory that will leverage university resources, provide practical experience to students, and develop talent in the field of forensic science.
 
SBI Director Greg McLeod said the goal is to provide the best training and equipment possible to ensure that the lab’s work warrants the absolute confidence of the public and the criminal justice system. “The scientists working in the state crime lab are dedicated professionals and we appreciate their hard work,” said McLeod.

Last Updated on Friday, 05 August 2011 00:00
 
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