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GOP ad slams Cooper over crime lab

The Republican Governors Association is out with a new anti-Roy Cooper ad, this one blaming the Democratic attorney general for widespread problems in the State Crime Lab several years ago. Cooper is running against GOP Gov. Pat McCrory.

At the time, the crime lab was part of the State Bureau of Investigation under the state Department of Justice. In 2013, the Republican-led legislature separated the SBI from the crime lab, and the following year moved the statewide law enforcement agency from under Cooper’s control into the McCrory administration’s Department of Public Safety.

The crime lab remains under the attorney general’s control. The spot picks up on the McCrory campaign theme that Cooper is not doing his job.

“Under Cooper, SBI’s lab withheld or distorted evidence in hundreds of cases leading to wrongful convictions and criminals going unpunished,” the commercial says. “Under Roy Cooper, the SBI was tainted by shoddy investigations and a staggering lack of competence at the lab.

“The state had to take SBI away from Cooper’s management.”

In 2010, an audit Cooper commissioned revealed that the SBI withheld or distorted evidence in more than 200 cases at the expense of potentially innocent men and women.

The SBI and its insurers agreed to pay nearly $12.5 million in 2013 to two innocent men who spent a total of 31 years behind bar. In one case, a mentally retarded man alleged an agent fabricated his confession in 1993.

In the second, a agent in the crime lab failed to report the results of lab tests favorable to a man who spent 17 years in prison; the man has since began declared innocent. In 2009, the SBI and its insurers agreed to pay $3.9 million to a former death row inmate who spent nine years behind bars for a murder he didn't commit. Those problems were before Cooper took office in 2001.

Craig Jarvis: 919-829-4576, @CraigJ_NandO