Cooper and the Curious Case of the Crime Lab Backlog

Roy Cooper Stunt T-Shirt CropIn 2010, Roy Cooper, while serving as Attorney General, came under fire for the way the NC State Crime Lab was handling cases under his watch at the NC DOJ.

There were charges of mishandling of evidence, withholding of evidence and general investigative malfeasance.  Well, now there are new accusations – but first some back story.

So Cooper ordered an audit of the State Bureau of Investigations (SBI).  This audit was, of course, ordered after Cooper and the DOJ sat on another report for six years that was critical of the way the lab operated. (Read that one here.)

The results were worse than anticipated. The SBI was found to have engaged in systematic abuse having withheld or distorted evidence in at least 230 cases spanning 16 years.

To give one an idea of the gravity of the problem, the audit revealed that blood testing done in the crime lab between 1987 and 2003 was purposefully withheld. The audit showed that in 190 cases the lab’s final report omitted evidence that contradicted earlier preliminary tests that indicated blood at a scene.

Three of those 190 cases resulted in executions and four other people convicted were on death row at the time of the audit. To be clear, the lab omitted evidence that could have cleared some of the accused in those 190 cases.

Flash forward to 2016.

The crime lab scandal surfaces again as Roy Cooper campaigns to be elected governor. Cooper says the problems were fixed.

In May of 2017, Attorney General Josh Stein told ABC 11 that everything was peachy and that he had cut the rape kit backlog from “52,000” to “9,000.”  Stein also  told ABC 11 the crime lab was “in operationally good shape now.”

That was last year, what about right now?

Well, there are now apparently 15,000 rape kits sitting untested at the crime lab. That means in less than a year, some 6,000 new kits came in and have just sat unprocessed or AG Stein perhaps stretched the truth some in his 2017 interview.

That’s a lot and according to the N&O its the highest in the country.

“But according to End the Backlog, a program operated by the nonprofit Joyful Heart Foundation, North Carolina has the highest reported number of untested rape kits in its current inventory.”

How is this possible. Roy Cooper said that the crime lab was fixed!

No really, Cooper said the backlog was cleared.

What does Governor Cooper have to say about it now?   He was unavailable for comment having jetted off to Brooklyn for some March Madness hoops.

About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a reporter currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_ Tips:
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