Dr Henry C Lee: Meet the forensic expert behind false testimonies that sent 2 men to jail for over 30 years

Dr Lee’s name has again popped up in the news after Ralph 'Ricky' Birch and Shawn Henning were freed from jail for the crime they did not commit


                            Dr Henry C Lee: Meet the forensic expert behind false testimonies that sent 2 men to jail for over 30 years
Dr Henry C Lee (Getty Images)
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TORRINGTON, CONNECTICUT: A superior court cleared the names of two men from a murder case after they spent 30 years in a Connecticut prison, in part due to the inaccurate testimony of renowned forensic expert Dr Henry C. Lee. Judge Dan Shaban dismissed all charges against Ralph 'Ricky' Birch and Shawn Henning on Friday, July 10, after they were convicted in December 1985 in the stabbing death of retired truck driver Everett Carr in New Milford.

The release of Birch and Henning came after it was revealed that Lee’s testimony was flawed. The stains on a towel that the forensic expert testified were consistent with blood, were actually something else. On December 1, 1985, Carr was stabbed 27 times in his home while his jugular vein was severed and he suffered head trauma. The crime scene was grisly, with bloodstains covering the walls and floors of the house. At the time, Birch and Henning were troubled and homeless teenagers reportedly committing burglaries to buy drugs. It has been said that once the 65-year-old victim interrupted one of their burglaries, making the men suspects.

Looking at the gruesome nature of the crime, it was very much possible for Birch and Henning to had been soaked with blood, but it was the exact opposite. There was not a single mark of blood on the men, or on their stolen car where they used to live, or among their belongings. However, Lee at the time claimed that he found a blood-stained towel in an upstairs bathroom at Carr’s house. He also claimed that his repeated testings had proved they were blood. Prosecutors used that towel as evidence against Birch and Henning and claimed that they used it to clean up.

However, DNA testing conducted on approximately 100 items over the last decade or so revealed that “None of that testing connected either men to the Carr homicide”. “It is inarguable that Lee, as the representative of the state police forensic laboratory, should have known that the bathroom towel had not been tested for blood. He, like any such witness, had an affirmative obligation to review any relevant test reports before testifying so as to reasonably ensure that his testimony would accurately reflect the findings of those tests,” Justice Richard N. Palmer wrote for the court. “To conclude otherwise would permit the state to gain a conviction on the basis of false or misleading testimony even though the error readily could have been avoided if the witness merely had exercised due diligence.”

Who is Dr Henry C. Lee and the history of his false testimonies?

This was not the first time Dr Lee gave a false testimony. The 81-year-old scientist, who was born in China and grew up in Taiwan, came to the US in 1965 with his wife Margret. Before coming to the US, he worked at the Taipei Police Department where he got the rank of captain.

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(Getty Images)

 

Dr Lee, a world-renowned forensic scientist, has appeared on several crime TV shows and documentaries. He has also founded the Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science and helped in more than 7,000 major case investigations. However, despite being a true-crime celebrity, and has the opportunity to work on sensational cases, like O.J. Simpson, JonBenet Ramsey, and Scott Peterson, the American-Chinese scientist has his own share of examples of botching evidence in multiple trials.

One such case was of a young mother, Janet Myers, who was murdered in February 1984. In 1990, Dr Lee gave his testimony into the case and said that Kerry Myers’ pants were found with the blood type of his dead wife. His testimony backed the prosecution’s claim that he and a friend beat Janet to death with a bat. Both men were convicted, but later as reported by The Daily Beast Dr Lee’s testimony was questioned by a detective who handled the case and insisted Janet’s blood type was never found on Myers’ pants.

Another famous case of Dr Lee is of actress Lana Clarkson, who was killed inside the home of record producer Phil Spector in 2003. Dr Lee was hired by the legal defense of Spector, who was eventually convicted of Clarkson’s second-degree murder. According to a report by the Daily Beast, a judge ruled in 2007 that Dr Lee hid or destroyed a white object, likely an acrylic fingernail, found at the crime scene. Sara Caplan, then a defense attorney working with Lee, told the judge that she saw the forensic expert taking the evidence, but he did not give it to prosecution.

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(Getty Images)

 

Joyce Stochmal’s disappearance and murder case also proves Dr Lee’s history of problems with evidence. In 1988, when the teenager disappeared and later found dead, the forensic scientist testified that a brown crusty substance found on the suspect David Weinberg’s knife was blood. He also said that there was no way to know whether the blood was of a human, leading to the conviction of Weinberg. However, lab tests done by the time of the trial revealed that the blood found on the knife was definitely not of a human, a petition for a new trial filed on behalf of Weinberg in 2017 stated. Weinberg’s lawyer, Darcy McGraw, said Lee “knew or should have known” the blood was not of a human.

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