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Agents’ Secrets

This series, the product of months of reporting, reveals deep trouble at the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. “Agents’ Secrets” shows an agency in line with prosecutors’ wishes. Agents and analysts ignore or twist the truth and push the bounds of science.

The Trailer

A preview of Agents’ Secrets: Junk Science, Tainted Testimony at the SBI, The News & Observer’s four-part investigative series exposing systemic problems in North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation. This trailer promoted the series on a week prior to publication in print and online.

Footage: Travis Long, Shawn Rocco, pool, SBI
Stills: Shawn Rocco, provided
Editing: Travis Long, Shawn Rocco.
Music: “34 Ghosts IV,” Nine Inch Nails (Creative Commons)

A Confession Doesn’t Add Up

Floyd Brown, a developmentally disabled man, spent 14 years locked up in a mental hospital because of a murder confession that has been widely discredited. SBI agent Mark Isley testified that he took down Brown’s confession word for word. But those who knew him or examined him said the document couldn’t have come from him.

Footage, editing: Travis Long, Shawn Rocco
Interviews, narration: Mandy Locke
Stills: Harry Lynch
Additional footage: Dr. Moira Artigues

Bloodstain analysis: ‘A bunch of malarkey’

An SBI bloodstain pattern experiment draws criticism and catcalls.

Footage: Travis Long, SBI.
Interview, script, narration: Joseph Neff.
Editing: Travis Long

A Truth Seeps Out at Last

Jailed for 18 years, Greg Taylor’s exoneration calls into question forensic practices at the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.

Footage and editing: Travis Long, Shawn Rocco.
Interviews, narration: Mandy Locke.
Stills: Shawn Rocco, Chuck Liddy, SBI.

Read the entire series at:

Update – August 27, 2010: Scathing SBI audit says 230 cases tainted by shoddy investigations:
An audit commissioned by Attorney General Roy Cooper revealed that the State Bureau of Investigation withheld or distorted evidence in more than 200 cases at the expense of potentially innocent men and women.

Update – January 30, 2011 – CNN airs “CNN Presents: Rogue Justcice”: An hour-long documentary based on the The News & Observer’s investigative series “Agents’ Secrets: Junk Science, Tainted Testimony at the SBI.” The documentary included a significant amount of News & Observer video footage and photographs as well as interviews with reporters Mandy Locke and Joseph Neff.

Update – February 9, 2011 – “Agents’ Secrets'” series receives McClatchy President’s Award:
“Raleigh’s coverage of the misdeeds of the state Bureau of Investigation uncovered a startling story: The agency responsible for many prosecution cases couldn’t be trusted. Reporters Joseph Neff and Mandy Locke worked for months to review documents, study practices and analyze questionable cases. Their reporting led to sweeping changes in the state agency, and spawned a CNN documentary that ran nationally this month. The project comes with an eloquent online website that includes stories, graphics and photos and tracks the developing coverage of this story. “Wow,” one judge wrote across the top of the entry. The judges panel added, “The treatment of this subject turned into a conversation all across town, which meant the reforms and reaction developed a real momentum. With the excellent reporting and strong online treatment, the series provides a how-to on making the most of an important, ongoing investigative project.”

Update – February 18, 2011: “Agents’ Secrets” receives Public Service award: The News & Observer was awarded the N.C. Press Association’s Public Service award for the investigative series “Agents’ Secrets.” The series also received first place recognition for best video, best multimedia project and investigative reporting.

Related Post -February 17, 2010: Innocence Panel Sets Greg Taylor Free

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