N.C. Resident Questions State's Use of Death Penalty in Federal Court

Lawsuit questions whether the death penalty is constitutional in a state that is allegedly using questionable science to convict people.

Aug 02, 2011, 11:00 ET from Carolina Crime Report

RALEIGH, N.C., Aug. 2, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- N.C. resident Donna Pilch filed a lawsuit in federal court which questions whether it is constitutional for North Carolina to use the death penalty when it is allegedly using questionable science and methods to convict people. The lawsuit names Attorney General Roy Cooper as the defendant, because he is responsible for the State Bureau of Investigation, which, according to an audit done by a former FBI agent, has been using questionable science in its serology (blood) and ballistics units.

A series of articles by the Raleigh News & Observer (www.newsobserver.com/agents) revealed the SBI's questionable protocol, and that Cooper ordered an audit of the SBI felony serology unit, but only for the period of 1987-2003. According to the lawsuit, Cooper apparently did not order an audit of the felony serology unit from 2003-present and he did not order an audit of the SBI misdemeanor serology unit at all. Thus, classes of more victims have yet to be identified and provided relief.

Donna Pilch claims that she became a victim of the SBI misdemeanor serology unit in 2009 when a Department of Health employee tested what was purportedly her blood sample, which was allegedly left at room temperature for over three months. Standard scientific protocol requires that blood samples stored long-term should be refrigerated at -20C, not room temperature. Ethanol (blood alcohol) levels can double when kept at room temperature.

According to the lawsuit, an SBI notary stated that she administered oath to the Department of Health blood tester, on February 14, 2009. But the test was performed and dated January 15, 2009, almost one month earlier. And another document from the Department of Health contains two different citation numbers; neither of which were Pilch's.

The lawsuit cited that the SBI's questionable science and procedures were used by Wake Court Judge Brewer to convict her, and Superior Court Judge in Residence Donald Stephens then denied her Motion for Relief. She filed complaints about both judges in federal court.  

She hopes that the U.S. District court will order North Carolina to cease use of the death penalty until the court system and SBI procedures are corrected to ensure that there are no more unconstitutional convictions.



CONTACT: Donna Pilch, donnapilch@carolinacrimereport.com, +1-516-749-4565

SOURCE Carolina Crime Report