This page contains information about crime laboratories, with a specific focus on North Carolina crime laboratories and their procedures.
- What is in a State Crime Laboratory Lab Report?
- Analyst Certification Information
- Laboratory Accreditation and ISO Standards and the NC Forensic Sciences Act of 2011
Reports and Publications
The American Academy of Forensic Sciences Standards Board develops documentary standards for forensics through a consensus process, involving participation by all directly and materially affected persons. The standards that have been published are available on the ASB website. Standards are being developed for each forensic discipline.
Report submitted by Judge Vince Rozier during his time as Ombudsman to the SBI. The document includes a memo by Judge Joseph John responding to the recommendations of the Ombudsman. The report was released by the SBI in Aug. 2011.
Chris Swecker and Michael Wolf were retained by the NC Attorney General’s Office to conduct an independent review of the Forensic Biology Section of the SBI Crime Laboratory. The investigation began in March 2010 and focuses on policies, procedures and practices between 1987 and 2003. The Appendix to the report contains a list of affected cases.
- Additional 75 cases – In March 2011, an SBI internal review of serology cases revealed an additional 75 defendants whose cases were affected by the same problematic reporting practices as the 230 cases identified in the Swecker Report. The additional cases were discovered when lab staff hand-reviewed files that had been screened electronically for the Swecker investigation.
The Wolf Memo – Michael Wolf’s provided a summary of Forensic Serology Laboratory Reporting Policies from the FBI and other states around 1990/1991.
The News and Observer published Chris Swecker’s previous report to the SBI regarding SBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Dwight Ransome and related SBI policies and procedures. This report was commissioned by the Attorney General’s Office following Ransome’s involvement in the Alan Gell case. Recommendations from this report included changes to the SBI’s Report Writing Manual, additional training regarding obtaining and preserving documentary evidence, and confirmation from relevant DA’s offices that potential exculpatory material was provided in specified SBI investigations.
This 2001 report by the North Carolina Medical Examiner Study Group was requested by the legislature in part in response to a series of news articles that raised concerns about the quality of death investigation in North Carolina. The report provides information about the structure and responsiblities of the Medical Examiner system and makes a number of recommendations for improving the system including improved training, utilization of trained death investigators, and assuring adequate resources for the performance of death investigation and autopsies throughout the state.
From the Blog
- The NC State Crime Laboratory has updated its evidence protocols pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-268, which requires that the lab review and update its minimum guidelines for the preservation of biological evidence every two years. The procedures were updated in Aug. 7, 2020. Information about these updates was shared with IDS, the Chief …
- This month the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ) Forensic Technology Center of Excellence published a Digital Evidence Policies and Procedures Manual to be used as a guide for law enforcement agencies. The preface to the manual clarifies that policies and procedures should be tailored to fit each lab’s particular circumstances, and further that a manual …
- Even though the courts are currently holding only a limited number of essential hearings to help limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus, attorneys who are teleworking may still need to hold pretrial conferences with forensic scientists. While in-person meetings are not possible at this time, there are still options for holding remote meetings with …
- From the National Academy of Sciences, to the Washington Post, to Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, there seems to be consensus that additional research is needed to validate several fields of forensic science. One challenge in collecting sufficient evidence to establish foundational validity is that because there is no ground truth in forensic casework, …
- What to watch when quarantined, 4/23/2020Are you done with Tiger King and don’t know what to watch next? Each of the series below is available on Netflix and offers insight into various forensic evidence methods. How to Fix a Drug ScandalThis four-episode series chronicles what happens when two drug analysts in Massachusetts commit misconduct in the lab. The series examines …
- Originally posted on Nov. 12, 2019 on the North Carolina Criminal Law blog. The advent of cannabis legalization across the country has led to a proliferation of new types of cannabis products. There are skin patches, food and drinks (for humans and pets), vaporizer or “vape” cartridges (or “carts”), and different concentrate or extract products (“dabs”, “wax” or “shatter”, among other names). [Click …
- An announcement from Becton Dickinson and Company (BD) may raise doubts about the validity of some blood alcohol tests conducted across the country since August 31, 2018. On May 30, 2019, with a correction made June 12, 2019, BD announced a recall for its “BD Vacutainer® Fluoride Tubes for Blood Alcohol Determinations” product. Vacutainers are …
- Analyst Certification Information, 7/23/2019In 2011, the North Carolina legislature enacted a series of reforms designed to increase the accountability and accuracy of forensic evidence used in criminal trials. The Forensic Sciences Act of 2011 states that State Crime Lab analysts “shall be required to obtain individual certification consistent with international and ISO standards.” Many of the certification organizations post certified …
- DNA testing issue at NMS Labs, 7/19/2019Attorneys from several counties have received notice through discovery that their cases that their cases were potentially affected by a DNA testing issue at National Medical Services (NMS) Labs in Pennsylvania. DA’s offices in various jurisdictions have sent samples to NMS Labs for DNA testing in recent years. The issue that has been identified is …
- The Texas Legislature recently legalized the cultivation of hemp, complicating enforcement of existing marijuana laws in the state. Hemp and marijuana are the same species of plant, Cannabis sativa, and are distinguishable only through a chemical analysis which shows the THC concentration. The concentration of THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana, is the legal difference …
- Autopsy of a Crime Lab, Wilson Center for Science and Justice
Duke Law Professor and Wilson Center Director Brandon Garrett’s new book, Autopsy of a Crime Lab, Exposing the Flaws in Forensics, is the first to catalog the sources of error and the faulty science behind a range of well-known forensic evidence, from fingerprints and firearms to forensic algorithms. Join us for a roundtable discussion about the book and its findings with Garrett; Erin Murphy, Norman Dorsen Professor of Civil Liberties at New York University School of Law; Edward Cheng, the Hess Chair in Law at Vanderbilt Law School; and Jennifer Mnookin, Dean, Ralph and Shirley Shapiro Professor of Law, and Faculty Co-Director of Program on Understanding Law, Science and Evidence at UCLA Law. This event will also feature a Q&A. Registration is required. RSVP here: http://bit.ly/AutopsyRSVP. Sponsored by the Wilson Center for Science and Justice. For more information, contact Marlyn Dail at email@example.com.
This free virtual conference will cover topics including seized drugs, toxicology, DNA, and more.
- Emerging Issues in the Evolution of the Texas Forensic Science Commission and National Reform Webinar, NCSTL
A new installment of the Stetson Law Crime Scene to Courtroom webinar series, Emerging Issues in the Evolution of the Texas Forensic Science Commission and National Reform is presented by Lynn Robitaille Garcia, General Counsel for the Texas Commission on Forensic Science. Over the course of the webinar, Ms. Garcia describes the changes that have taken place in Texas’ forensic science policy over the course of the last few years and the underlying issues motivating those changes. Additionally, Ms. Garcia addresses changes to forensic policy taking place on a national level and the obstacles to potential reforms. Link to course materials below:
*Attendees who complete this webinar are eligible for CLE credit. Click here to apply for CLE credit.
The Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence (CSAFE) is offering a webinar, Crime Lab Proficiency Testing and Quality Management. This event will be held Tuesday, January 21st from 11am-12pm, CST.
In the wake of recent reports documenting the vulnerability of forensic science methodologies to human error (e.g., NAS, 2009; PCAST, 2016), the field has sometimes pointed to proficiency testing as evidence of disciplines’ validity and/or reliability. In 2015, the Houston Forensic Science Center adopted recommendations for blind proficiency testing by implementing a blind quality control program. The objective of the program is to supplement mandatory proficiency tests as well as to provide real-time assessment of analysis procedures, determine areas of improvement, and ensure that stakeholders are receiving accurate and reliable results. This webinar will detail the origin, maintenance, and benefits of HFSC’s blind quality control program within the Latent Print Comparison section. HFSC personnel will also describe obstacles to the implementation of the program and feasible solutions.
By the end of this presentation, participants will be able to:
- Identify and discuss the need for quality management beyond traditional proficiency tests.
- Describe how one laboratory successfully implemented a blind quality control program, using the latent print comparison unit as an illustrative example.
- Identify hurdles, and solutions, to the implementation of a blind quality control program.
- Brett Gardner, Sharon Kelley and Daniel Murrie, University of Virginia
- Maddisen Neuman, Callan Hundl, Rebecca Green and Alicia Rairden, Houston Forensic Science Center
Please visit the CSAFE Events Page to register for the webinar. The event will take place via the videoconferencing software Zoom. Participation instructions will be emailed after registering for the event.
All members of the broader forensic science community are welcome to attend and we encourage you to invite additional colleagues. Please contact CSAFE Research Administrator Marc Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns.
Duke University School of Law is excited to offer a short course on forensic evidence litigation, with CLE credit pending approval, at Duke Law in Durham, North Carolina.
The course is free and open to a small number of practicing criminal lawyers. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys are encouraged to attend. The course will be open to fifteen Duke Law students. The course will be most valuable for lawyers with some criminal experience, but without much experience litigating forensic science issues.
Co-sponsored by the NC State Crime Laboratory & Office of Indigent Defense Services
The NC State Crime Laboratory and NC Office of Indigent Defense Services will offer a free-to-attend CLE that is designed to enhance the knowledge of criminal defense attorneys and criminal defense investigators. Senior forensic scientists from the State Crime Lab will present updates and key information about the analysis of physical evidence in the disciplines of Forensic Biology (DNA), Firearms, and Digital Evidence. The Laboratory is working on validating the use of a new software program (STRMix) to interpret DNA mixtures. Once this software is implemented, DNA laboratory reports will have a new format and new conclusions will be used. This program aims to familiarize attorneys with this new program and the testimony that will be provided in court.
Following these presentations, the speakers will address questions from attorneys. Due to the confidential nature of casework, questions about specific cases will not be answered. Attorneys can schedule a meeting at the State Crime Lab to discuss the case with the analyst. Registration is available here. Attendees are encouraged to submit questions ahead of time using the registration form or by emailing email@example.com.
Attorneys receiving CLE credit will be billed $3.50 per credit hour by the NC State Bar. 3.0 hours of general CLE credit is anticipated. Non-attorneys who wish to receive continuing education credit will receive certificates of attendance.
NACDL will host its annual forensic science CLE in Las Vegas on April 3-4, 2020. Topics include facial recognition software, SANE evidence, cross-examination of experts, arson investigations, latent fingerprints, electronic evidence, toxicology evidence, and more! Scholarships are available through NACDL.
This database can be used to identify which laboratories are accredited.
Motions and Briefs
This sample motion contains a request for specific discovery, motion to preserve evidence and motion to produce for an in camera inspection by the court is another approach.
June 12, 2012 State’s Motion requesting information regarding State Crime Lab certification exams. No file stamped version is available.
Hearing regarding SCL analyst certification results has been continued to June 26, 2012 at 2 pm.
Judge Gary M. Gavenus’s July 13, 2012 order requiring the State Crime Laboratory furnish to each District Attorney in the State the first and second letter containing the actual certification exam results and designated areas requiring further study.
July 17, 2012 memo to defense attorneys regarding Judge Gavenus’s order.
August 2, 2012 letter notifying defense attorneys who represented clients in approximately 80 resolved cases involving an analyst who was unsuccessful on his or her certifying exam. The letter specifies how information on analyst certification exam results will be provided based on Judge Gavenus’s order.
Civil complaint against former SBI agents/supervisors/directors Deaver, Taub, Nelson, Keaton and Elliot filed in U.S. District Court in Raleigh on June 28, 2011.
Extends the time for local forensic science labs (other than the North Carolina State Crime Laboratory) to become accredited from July 1, 2013 to July 1, 2016.
Section 6 of this law extends the time for local forensic science labs (other than the North Carolina State Crime Laboratory) to become accredited from October 1, 2012 to July 1, 2013. Section 6.1 clarifies which State Crime Laboratory employees are required to become certified.
Signed into law by Governor Beverly Perdue on March 31, 2011. Sections 1-5 and 7-11 became effective when the act became law. Section 6 (Ombudsman position) becomes effective on July 1, 2011.
Crime Labs in the News
- Defense lawyer alleges ‘systemic failures’ at Maine State Police forensic lab, by Caitlin Andrews, 3/4/2021
- Lawyer goes to court for access to Maine crime lab records, by Edward D. Murphy, Press Herald, 3/3/2021
- Austin City Council to vote to separate forensics lab from APD, Fox7, 1/30/2021
- Austin’s Unreliable Crime Lab Could Lead to Another Wrongful Execution, by Jerry Iannelli, The Appeal, 1/20/2021
- Massachusetts crime lab scandal could widen as another chemist is investigated, by Rebecca Trager, Chemistry World, 1/14/2021
- Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins looking into third chemist at state drug lab, by Maggie Mulvihill and Dugan Arnett, Boston Globe, 12/17/2020
- Anatomy of a Crime Lab: Winning Convictions ‘On the Cheap’, by Matthew Nesvet, The Crime Report, 12/15/2020
- ‘Cog In A Wheel’: 3 Ex-Prosecutors, Facing Potential Discipline For Drug Lab Scandal, Blame System Or Each Other, by Deborah Becker, WBUR, 12/4/2020