Connecticut has agreed to pay a $25 million settlement to two men who spent decades in prison for a murder they did not commit, and whose convictions were partly based on evidence presented by Henry Lee, a forensic scientist who worked on notorious criminal investigations and trials, the Guardian reports. Ralph “Ricky” Birch and Shawn Henning were convicted for the 1985 murder of Everett Carr after Lee, whose name would later become widely known in connection with the OJ Simpson, Lana Clarkson, and JonBenét Ramsey cases, testified about “blood” evidence on a towel and how blood from the victim’s wounds had spattered in an “uninterrupted” fashion. No forensic evidence existed linking Birch and Henning to the murder. No blood was found on the defendants’ clothes or in their car. The crime scene included hairs and more than 40 fingerprints, but none matched the two men. Lee still testified that it was possible for the men to have committed the crime without getting blood on them. Henning and Birch, who were 17 and 18 respectively at the time of the murder, were convicted in 1989 and incarcerated for three decades before the Connecticut Supreme Court overturned their convictions in 2019 after several witnesses recanted their testimony.
“They say the wheels of justice turn slowly,” Birch told the Hartford Courant. That’s a little bit of an understatement. They took 30 years of my life and I’m not going to give them any more by being angry.” The wrongly convicted men filed a federal lawsuit naming Lee, then with the state’s forensic laboratory, eight police investigators, and the town of New Milford. “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,” Lee said after the convictions were overturned. In July, Lee was found liable for fabricating evidence by a federal judge who found there was no evidence that Lee had conducted tests for blood on a towel that he testified was a smear “identified to be blood” and which prosecutors had said could have been touched by the killers while cleaning up. Lee, professor emeritus at the University of New Haven’s Henry C Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences, denied that he had fabricated evidence. “I have no motive nor reason to fabricate evidence,” he tpld the Associated Press. “My chemical testing of the towel played no direct role in implicating Mr. Birch and Mr. Henning or anyone else as suspects in this crime. Further, my scientific testimony at their trial included exculpatory evidence, such as a negative finding of blood on their clothing that served to exonerate them.”