Renowned forensic scientist Henry Lee, who had consulted in the O.J. Simpson trial in 1995, has been found liable for fabricating evidence in a murder case that sent two teenagers to jail for decades for a crime they did not commit, ruled a judge in the United States.
Mr Ralph Birch and Mr Shawn Henning were incarcerated for the murder of 65-year-old Everett Carr, who was struck on his head multiple times and stabbed 27 times in December 1985.
Mr Birch and Mr Henning were then 17 and 18, respectively.
They had acknowledged committing burglaries in the area where the murder took place, but they have consistently maintained that they were not involved in Mr Carr’s death.
Their conviction was based partly on Dr Lee’s testimony on bloodstains found on a towel in the victim’s home in the town of New Milford, Connecticut.
However, judge Victor Bolden said in his ruling on Friday that Dr Lee failed to provide evidence to support his testimony about forensic tests he said showed the stains were blood.
“Other than stating that he performed the test, however, the record contains no evidence that any such test was performed,” the judge wrote in his 84-page judgment.
Judge Bolden also pointed out Dr Lee’s “own experts concluded that there is no ‘written documentation or photographic’ evidence” that the forensic scientist had conducted a tetramethylbenzidine test for blood.
“And there is evidence in this record that the tests actually conducted did not indicate the presence of blood,” the judge added.
His ruling could make Dr Lee liable for millions in damages at upcoming court hearings, said the New York Daily News.
It could also lead to trials for other defendants in the case – the town of New Milford and eight police officers.
Ms Elizabeth Benton, a spokesman for Connecticut Attorney-General William Tong, whose office defended Dr Lee and the police officers in the case, told the Associated Press it was reviewing the decision and evaluating the next steps.
A judge vacated the murder convictions in 2020, and Mr Birch and Mr Henning filed a federal wrongful conviction lawsuit that year.
Dr Lee, 84, was the former head of Connecticut’s forensic laboratory and founder of the Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science at the University of New Haven in the state.
After the Birch and Henning case, he gained fame when he consulted on high-profile cases, including the O.J. Simpson trial, the 1996 murder investigation of American child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey, and the 2007 murder trial of record producer Phil Spector.
Mr Birch, who spent more than 30 years behind bars, was released in 2019 after a judge ordered a new trial, while Mr Henning was granted probation in 2018.
After the two men’s release, Dr Lee defended his track record.
“In my 57-year career, I have investigated over 8,000 cases and never, ever was accused of any wrongdoing or for testifying intentionally wrong,” he told reporters in 2020. “This is the first case that I have to defend myself.”
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