Dr. Henry C. Lee Defends His Name and Career


Courtesy of Anna Downs/The Charger Bulletin

Anna Downs, Editor-in-Chief

In June Connecticut’s Supreme Court overturned the convictions of two men who in 1985 were sent to jail partly because of what the court said was inaccurate testimony, regarding the evidence, from Dr. Henry C. Lee, the renowned forensic scientist and University of New Haven stalwart.

The cases were reviewed at the urging of the Connecticut Innocence Project, a part of the state’s Division of Public Defender Services. The court found that “the state’s failure to correct Lee’s testimony” about physical evidence “deprived the petitioner of a fair trial.”

According to a university spokesperson, “Dr. Henry C. Lee has been a distinguished member of the University of New Haven faculty since 1975. The University’s Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences, considered one of the best and most comprehensive in the country, is named in honor of Dr. Lee. He also is the founder of the Lee Institute of Forensic Science, which was established on campus in 1998.” said university spokesperson.

In an interview with the Charger Bulletin, Lee said the overturning was a judicial matter.

When asked how he felt about the case being overturned, Lee said “That’s fine, I don’t care. That’s the judicial issue.” 

The two men were found guilty of the murder of Everett Carr, 65, of New Milford. The men, Shawn Henning, 17 at the time of trial, and Ralph Birch, then 18, were sentenced to 50 years, and 55 years, respectively. The teens, who were homeless at the time, were prime suspects for the murder in part because of their past criminal history with burglary, according to the CT Post

In the trial, a stained towel was presented as a piece of evidence. It appeared to contain the blood of  the two convicted men, although at the time there was no technology to detect DNA. In addition, the men were convicted based on testimony from family members. But after leaving the crime scene, there was no blood found on the clothing of either men and no blood found in the car in which they were living, according to the Connecticut Post.

Lee said, “I did not participate in the investigation, I really don’t know what the grandma said, girlfriend said, or the witness said because the whole case is focused on the witness statement. Scientific evidence we did not find, except the shoeprint, we found two different kinds of sneaker prints, those are partial prints.” 

Lee added that forensic practices have changed “You cannot use today’s techonolgy to judge what police did thirty years ago,” which include no technology to gather DNA and no emphasis on protecting the crime scene by wearing gloves.

The university spokesperson said, “Dr. Lee has been involved in thousands of cases over his long and distinguished career. His contributions to the University of New Haven and to our students have been immeasurable. For that we are forever indebted.”

In June, Lee held a press conference at the university to address the reports surrounding the cases which have been brought to question.   

At that press conference, according to WNPR, Lee said, “Further laboratory testing should have been done to confirm that information. Laboratory tests conducted decades later found that the stain was not blood..” But Lee said to the Charger Bulletin, “The towel never even played a factor, because the conviction was basically by the witness.”