Leaders of ASCLD, the American Society of Crime Lab Directors, have not been the biggest fans of The News & Observer's reporting on problems at the State Bureau of Investigation. In addition to finding problems at the SBI, we've also reported on the failure of the accrediting agency ASCLD-LAB to catch the problems in the SBI crime lab and the ASCLD-LAB's cozy relationships with ASCLD (a trade association), a lobbying group, and a for-profit consulting firm.
ASCLD leaders have repeatedly accused The N&O of errors and inaccuracies, but have yet to cite a single example. We've repeatedly asked them to point us to errors so we can assess the information and, if necessary, run corrections. It is News & Observer policy to correct all errors. Here's three examples of complaints not backed by evidence.
CALIFORNIAN CRIES FOUL: In October, ASCLD president-elect Jill Spriggs, the director of California's state crime lab, gave a presentation to the N.C. General Assembly. A San Francisco newspaper later reported how Spriggs's remarks drew criticism from a defenses lawyer and a former lab analyst for the Los Angeles police.
Spriggs said The N&O misquoted her.
"I can tell you a lot of the things that were reported by the News & Observer in North Carolina were taken out of context," she told The SF Weekly. "A lot of what they reported is wrong."
Spriggs, who has twice declined interviews with The News & Observer, has not pointed out what we got wrong.
As for misquote? Here's the quote in question, which you can compare to audio of her presentation, attached below.
"That is an accurate statement," Spriggs said. "A lot of times you got no results. It didn't mean it wasn't blood; it meant you didn't have enough sample, or maybe the sample was old. ...What else is red-brown that will give you a positive presumptive test for blood? There's nothing that I know."
CNN: The cable network recently aired "Rogue Justice", an hour-long documentary on problems at the SBI, largely based on our work Greg Matheson, president of ASCLD, sent out the following email to all ASCLD members: (our emphasis added)
"On this Sunday night, January 30, 2011, CNN will be airing "CNN Presents: Rogue Justice: CNN's Drew Griffin investigates the North Carolina state justice system where key blood test results have been withheld from trial." The show is airing at 8:00 PM EST and 5:00 PM PST.
Since late summer of 2010, there has been significant media interest about issues surrounding the activities of the North Carolina (NC) State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), including its forensic science laboratory. A local NC newspaper has run a series of articles alleging significant malfeasance on the part of SBI in general and the laboratory in particular.
Your association, ASCLD, has been actively involved by providing testimony before the North Carolina Legislative Committee. We felt it was important for ASCLD to provide insight and guidance into many issues which we feel have been either inaccurately reported or misunderstood by the media and the NC committee. Our involvement is strictly focused on educating all involved parties on the scientific basis of specific tests, the conclusions which could be reached and reported, and evaluating the historical work of a laboratory in the context of practices at the time the work was performed."
Matheson was kind enough to provide a copy of his email. We asked for details on what exactly has been inaccurately reported. He replied on Feb. 1 that he would have to compile a list, which we have yet to receive.
ASCLD-LAB: Ralph Keaton, the director of ASCLD-LAB, has complained several times to N&O reporters about errors in our reporting. Each time we've asked him to give us specifics, so we can publish corrections if necessary. Each time he has refused. But he did give us a wonderful quote from former newspaper reporter Mark Twain: "If you don't read the newspaper, you're uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you're mis-informed." "