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Forensic Expert Henry Lee Defends Reputation After Court Throws Out Murder Convictions

Dr. Henry C. Lee speaking to reporters at at the Henry Lee Institute of Forensic Science
Lori Mack
Connecticut Public Radio
Dr. Henry C. Lee speaking to reporters at at the Henry Lee Institute of Forensic Science

Eminent forensics expert Dr. Henry Lee is defending his reputation, after the Connecticut Supreme Court last week ordered a new trial in a decades-old murder case. The decision was largely based on what the court said was incorrect testimony given by Lee.

The now retired forensic scientist told reporters that in his 57-year career he’s investigated thousands of cases and has never been accused of any wrongdoing.

"This is the first case I feel I have to give a really important news conference to explain," Lee said.

Last week the state’s highest court threw out the 1989 murder covictions of Shawn Henning and Ralph Birch, who were teenagers when they were convicted in the stabbing death of a 65-year-old New Milford man. Both were sentenced to life, by separate juries, for the brutal murder of Everett Carr.

But Lawyers have argued that much of the blame for their convictions was based on inaccurate testimony given by Lee regarding a blood smear on a towel found at the crime scene. Lee testified that a spot on the towel was tested and was found to be consistent with blood and "could" be blood. But years later a lab technician testified that the towel had never been tested for blood. Lee said that’s inaccurate, since he conducted a field test.

"The towel was tested. I want to reemphasize that," Lee said. A few chemical presumptive tests were done. We did test it."

Lee said presumptive tests are standard practice, but further laboratory testing should have been done to confirm that information. Laboratory tests conducted decades later found that the stain was not blood. Lee was adamant that he did not make a mistake. He said a more accurate statement from the lab technician should have stated that the evidence was submitted, but nobody tested it, not that the towel was never tested.

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