Celebrity Forensic Scientist Liable For Fabricating Evidence that Sent 2 Teens to Prison for 30 Years

After two teenagers were sent to prison for 30 years for a murder they did not commit, a federal judge found forensic scientist Henry Lee liable for falsifying evidence in the case last Friday in a wrongful conviction lawsuit filed by the two men.

On Dec. 1, 1985, at the ages of 17 and 18, respectively, Shawn Henning and Ralph “Ricky” Birch were convicted of murder in the death of Everett Carr. The convictions owed in large part to Lee’s testimony that there were bloodstains on a towel in the 65-year-old man’s New Milford, Conn., home that linked the pair to the crime.

Both men spent 30 years in prison until a judge vacated the murder convictions in 2020.

Subsequently, Henning and Birch, now 54 and 56, filed a wrongful conviction lawsuit against Lee, eight police officers and the town of New Milford. As a result of the lawsuit, experts discovered that the purported blood found on the towel was not actually blood — and there was no evidence Lee had ever conducted any blood test on the towel.

In addition to finding Lee liable, the court also ruled that a jury could reasonably find that both prosecutors and New Milford police hid or fabricated evidence that would have helped the teenagers in their case.

Brad Horrigan/Hartford Courant/Tribune News Service via Getty 

“I was a 17-year-old kid who was stealing food from homes because my dad kicked me out in the middle of winter and we needed food,” Henning tells PEOPLE. “They took this scrawny 17-year-old kid, had him sign away his Miranda rights, and threw him in prison to defend himself for 30 years.”

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Lee, 84, who is most known for his involvement in the O.J. Simpson and the JonBenét Ramsey cases, said in a statement that he did in fact test the towels and has “no motive nor reason to fabricate evidence.” 

In his ruling on Friday, U.S. District Judge Victor Bolden ruled that Lee had no evidence to back his testimony. “Other than stating that he performed the test, however, the record contains no evidence that any such test was performed,” the judge wrote. “In fact, as plaintiffs noted, Dr. Lee’s own experts concluded that there is no ‘written documentation or photographic’ evidence that Dr. Lee performed the TMB blood test. And there is evidence in this record that the tests actually conducted did not indicate the presence of blood.”

Forensic scientist Dr. Henry C. Lee

Paul Buck-Pool/Getty 

This is not the first time Lee has been accused of falsifying or mishandling evidence. In 2007, a judge ruled that Lee withheld evidence from prosecutors in the Phil Spector murder trial.

“If you can convict an innocent child, or any innocent person, and put them in a prison environment — if you can do that to somebody and still sleep at night and still defend what you did at the start, then you’re the one who should be charged,” Henning tells PEOPLE.

Following last Friday’s ruling, there will be a hearing to determine damages rather than a trial. Jurors will be instructed that Lee has already been found liable for fabricating evidence and that they are there to decide how much he owes Henning and Birch in damages. A full trial will take place for the cases against the others named in the lawsuit. 

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Despite the verdict, Henning believes money is not enough. “I’m not looking for just compensation in terms of money. I want there to be changes in our system,” he tells PEOPLE. 

Shawn Henning

Lizzie Hyman

“There is no such thing as justice. You will never get back what they took from you. There is no getting my life back. They took 30 birthdays, 30 summers, weddings, Christmases, funerals, New Years’. There’s no word for what they’ve done to me and my co-defendant. There’s no word to describe what it feels like to be in prison for something you didn’t do and to sit and think. ‘Why did this happen? And why is no one coming to fix what they did?’ There are no words for that.”

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Source: HIS Education

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