We all realize that statistics can be manipulated to prove points, that polls can be slanted by how a question is asked, that news reporting itself demonstrates bias by what the media chooses to cover, if nothing else. However, we expect forensic science to be the gold standard of truth--complete, objective, honest. We want to believe that. Learning that forensics, too, does not live up to its objective, TV-drama-polished image makes us all feel vulnerable to the vagaries of uneven justice.
The cases were divided into four categories. In the fourth and most serious group, confirmatory tests were over-reported or not reflective of the results contained in the lab notes. Only five of the cases landed in this category and all of them were handled by Special Agent Duane Deaver (right).
It seems that Deaver is being painted as the chief villain in this mess. He has been relieved of his duties while an investigation looks into his actions. But did he really perform any differently than others? Or was Deaver simply following the procedures and policies as required to maintain his job?
As for the present and the future, the report pointed out that the review "focused mostly on historical practices and policies that are no longer in use..." and that as of March 2010, complete SBI laboratory files are now routinely provided via online access to every District Attorney's office in the state..." enabling them "...to provide appropriate and timely discovery materials to the defense in a criminal proceeding."
So was Deaver merely following bad guidance? My experience with him tends to make me lean in that direction. I watched Deaver testify in the Michael Peterson case in 2003 for a book (Written in Blood, February 2004). I saw him face a cross examination that felt more like a witch hunt than a quest for justice. I interviewed him at length. He seemed genuinely committed to justice.