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“Idaho Wilderness”

Since: Apr 07

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#1
Jun 4, 2007
 
A burnished image marred
A judge's challenge to expert Henry C. Lee's credibility is a stunning turn in a career whose profile rose with the celebrity cases he took.
By Peter Y. Hong, Times Staff Writer

June 3, 2007

In the all-out warfare of celebrity trials, forensic scientist Henry C. Lee is the nuclear weapon. Prosecutors and defense lawyers scramble to hire him in the hours after a high-profile arrest — not only to bolster their cases but also to keep him from joining the other side.
Lee has worked on the biggest celebrity cases of the last two decades: O.J. Simpson, William Kennedy Smith, Kobe Bryant, JonBenet Ramsey, Scott Peterson, Chandra Levy, Michael Skakel. His work has brought him his own fame. He has had his own cable TV show, courtrooms fill with spectators when he shows up for a trial, and he is hounded for autographs in public.
So when Lana Clarkson, a 40-year-old actress, was found shot to death Feb. 3, 2003, in music producer Phil Spector's home, attorney Robert Shapiro immediately flew in Lee from his Connecticut home. The lawyer got Lee into Spector's Alhambra mansion by the next evening to begin the scientific hunt for evidence to prove Spector innocent — or at least produce doubt of his guilt in jurors' minds.
But in a startling blow to Lee's illustrious career, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler said he already has reasonable doubt — about Lee's credibility.
Fidler ruled last month that prosecutors could present testimony that Lee took evidence from the crime scene and kept it from prosecutors.
The judge said testimony about what was taken was inconclusive, but prosecutors claimed that it was a piece of Clarkson's acrylic nail that was blown off when she held her hand in front of her face to try to defend herself against the bullet that killed her. That could show that, contrary to the contention of Spector's lawyers, she did not kill herself.
Lee, when vigorously denying that he improperly took anything from the crime scene, captured the magnitude of the allegation. "I think my reputation severely damaged," he said.
Fidler's ruling could weaken Lee's testimony, although defense attorneys say they plan to stick with him. An expert on analyzing the patterns of bloodstains, Lee is expected to testify that the size and number of blood spots on Spector's jacket show he was standing too far from Clarkson to have shot her.
The judge's decision could also damage Lee beyond the Spector case. Future courtroom opponents might cite the ruling to chip at Lee's stature; prosecutors and defense attorneys might even decide not to hire him at all.
Lee has not spoken to reporters about Fidler's ruling. His office said he is out of the country on a lecture tour until Monday, and his assistant at the Connecticut state forensics lab declined to forward phone or e-mail messages to him or to say whether he checks messages when traveling.
Six days after The Times asked that an e-mail containing questions for this story be forwarded to Lee, his office sent a statement in reply. The statement did not answer The Times' questions about his work as a forensic scientist but repeated his denial that he withheld evidence from Spector's house.
He called the fingernail allegation "a tactic to kill the messenger before the message is delivered."
Lee's setback occurred in the same downtown Los Angeles courthouse where, 12 years ago, he became a celebrity in his own right with his televised testimony in O.J. Simpson's trial. Jurors later cited Lee as a key factor in their acquittal of the former football star in the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Lyle Goldman.
Lee had questioned the LAPD's handling of blood evidence, suggesting that it could have been tampered with.
"Something's wrong," Lee famously said of the blood samples, leading the defense to suggest that officers could have planted Simpson's blood at the crime scene to frame him.

“Idaho Wilderness”

Since: Apr 07

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#2
Jun 4, 2007
 
At the time, Lee was the chief criminalist for the state of Connecticut, earning a salary of $80,000 a year. He donated his fees from the Simpson case to nonprofit groups, as he has done routinely as an expert witness. By giving his fees away and saying he will do so on the witness stand, Lee defuses criticism that he is a hired gun beholden to those paying him.

He built his reputation in Connecticut by helping to solve tough cases, such as a murder in which the victim's body was missing. Digging through a snow-covered riverbank, Lee found less than an ounce of human remains and proved they were those of a missing flight attendant whose husband had recently bought a wood chipper. The husband was convicted in 1985.

Lee has testified on the significance of bloodstains, bullet paths, footprints, fingernails and hairs.

The 1991 William Kennedy Smith rape trial in Palm Beach, Fla., was Lee's first celebrity case. He testified that the accuser's clothing did not have grass stains or tears consistent with a struggle. Smith was acquitted.

Now retired from his government posts, Lee reaps handsome dividends from his fame. It propels sales of his books and lands him lucrative speaking engagements. One speaker's website lists Lee's fee as $12,500 a lecture, plus first-class travel for two.

“Idaho Wilderness”

Since: Apr 07

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#3
Jun 4, 2007
 
He has given some of his fees to the University of New Haven, where he has been a professor of forensic science. He also receives pay and benefits as a director of the Henry C. Lee Institute on the campus, which offers forensics courses to police and others.

Public records show that in 2004, the most recent year for which data are available, Lee received $52,563 in pay and benefits from the institute. University officials said that this was only a portion of his compensation from the school, where he holds the rank of professor, but that they were unable to provide details.

Before the Simpson trial, Lee seldom gave interviews to reporters outside Connecticut. Since then, he has been a frequent television commentator and even had a Court TV show. Nine colleges and universities have awarded him honorary degrees since the Simpson trial, and he has said his speaking engagements have been booked as far as two years in advance.

Born in China and raised in Taiwan, where he was a police captain, Lee has turned a potential liability — his thickly accented English and immigrant background — to his benefit. Rather than play down his Chinese identity, he will bring it up on the witness stand. A joke Lee has pulled out consistently in trials since before the Simpson case is to say, when asked to identify a white person, "You all look alike to me."

Earlier this year, he told a University of New Haven audience that he and his wife arrived in the United States with $50, not speaking the language. "Forty-some years later, we still don't speak English, but we sure have a lot of money," he said, pulling a wad of bills out of his pocket to punctuate the joke.

Although his forensic work requires precise statements of facts, Lee's descriptions of himself verge on hyperbole. He often says he works 17-hour days, seven days a week.

“Idaho Wilderness”

Since: Apr 07

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#4
Jun 4, 2007
 
In a 1994 New York Times interview, Lee said he spoke only four words of English — "Hello" and "How are you?" — when he arrived in the U.S. But he wrote in a 2000 autobiography published in Taiwan that he worked as a freelance English translator while a police cadet in Taiwan, and as an officer was assigned to the Taipei airport because of his English ability. He also wrote in the book that he passed an English test that Taiwan's government then required of those hoping to study abroad.

Personal tall tales aside, those who have retained Lee — who works for both prosecutors and defendants — say he will not bend his scientific opinions to suit a client.

"A lawyer can move some experts to where the lawyer wants him to be. Henry Lee will say he can't take that next step," said Dallas jury consultant Robert Hirschhorn, who worked with Lee on the successful defense of William Kennedy Smith.

Along with his reputation for objectivity, Lee, who has a doctorate in biochemistry, has won over juries with vivid demonstrations, often featuring props. He likes to pull a magnifying glass out of his briefcase in court, subliminally evoking Sherlock Holmes, a Lee favorite. To illustrate blood spatter patterns, he will spit out ketchup, making sure to get some on the suit of the lawyer with whom he is working.

Rather than attack such demonstrations, opposing lawyers often choose to forego tough cross-examinations of Lee. In an Ohio murder case last year, a defense lawyer's cross-examination of Lee consisted of a few perfunctory questions and a welcome to Toledo.

Lee "has an amazing ability to connect with a jury," said Hirschhorn, who has also worked against him in trials. "If you try to beat him up or bully him, it will backfire on you in a heartbeat."

In the Simpson trial, Judge Lance A. Ito directed prosecutor Hank Goldberg not to spend a lot of time cross-examining Lee. "If I was in your shoes," Ito told Goldberg in a conference without jurors present, "I would … accentuate the positives of my case, doing it in a very friendly manner given his reputation, and get out."

Lee's fame can also tie defense attorneys' hands. Thomas Maher, a North Carolina defense lawyer, said that if defense attorneys hire Lee, they have to call him as a witness or risk jurors' suspecting that he backed out because he does not support their position.

“Idaho Wilderness”

Since: Apr 07

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#5
Jun 4, 2007
 
Maher called Lee in the 2003 murder trial of Michael Peterson, a prominent Durham novelist accused of beating his wife to death. The courtroom overflowed with spectators who watched Lee spitting ketchup at a white sheet of paper to show how Peterson's wife, Kathleen, could have coughed up the blood pattern found on the wall of their house.

Lee was unable to work his magic with the jury, which convicted Peterson. Prosecutor Freda Black said jurors told her after the trial that Lee "came across as too self-confident and a little bit silly" and that spitting ketchup seemed to trivialize the woman's death.

Now, some say they don't know what to expect from Lee.

J. Christopher Anderson, deputy chief of the criminal division of the Lucas County, Ohio, prosecutor's office, credits Lee with helping him win a 2006 Toledo murder trial in which a priest was convicted of killing a nun 26 years earlier.

Anderson said that in future trials, however, he would weigh the value of Lee's testimony against the harm of having him cross-examined about hiding evidence in the Spector trial.

"There's some baggage now we would have to deal with," he said.

“Idaho Wilderness”

Since: Apr 07

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#6
Jun 4, 2007
 
Page 3

peter.hong@latimes.com

--

(INFOBOX BELOW)

Famous faces among his cases

• Michael Skakel (1991): Lee serves on the Connecticut panel investigating the 1975 murder of Martha Moxley. He also testifies in the 2001-02 trial that results in the conviction of Skakel, Ethel Kennedy's nephew.

• William Kennedy Smith (1991): Lee testifies at the rape trial that the accuser's clothing did not have grass stains or tears consistent with a struggle, which she said occurred. Smith is acquitted.

• O.J. Simpson (1995): Lee testifies at the murder trial that the LAPD may have mishandled blood evidence. He says there is no way to tell if a bloody footprint at the crime scene was left after the slaying. Simpson is acquitted of killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Lyle Goldman.

• Vincent Foster (1997): Lee is part of a team gathered by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr to examine the Clinton White House aide's death, which is later confirmed to have been a suicide.

• JonBenet Ramsey (1998-99): Lee advises prosecutors in the grand jury inquiry into the 6-year-old's death. No indictments are issued.

• Chandra Levy (2003): Lee is hired by the Levy family to examine bones of their slain daughter, a former intern for Rep. Gary Condit. Condit is cleared, and no one else is charged in her death.

• Scott Peterson (2003): Lee is hired by defense lawyer Mark Geragos to examine the remains of Laci Peterson and her unborn baby. Scott Peterson is later convicted of murder.

• Kobe Bryant (2003): Lee examines evidence for prosecutors. The felony sexual assault charges against Bryant are dropped.

Copyright 2007 Los Angeles Times
SnowAngel

Danby, VT

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#7
Jun 4, 2007
 
Patsy Ramsey killed 'that child'. There was no intruder. Curse me if you want. Argue if you want. Her mother killed her. It's 'southern common sense'.

“Idaho Wilderness”

Since: Apr 07

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#8
Jun 4, 2007
 
There is NO evidence that a Ramsey killed JonBenet.
Patricia Fox

Sharpsburg, GA

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#9
Jun 4, 2007
 
Justice seeker wrote:
There is NO evidence that a Ramsey killed JonBenet.
Come on, you know better than that. LOL
Capricorn

New York, NY

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#10
Jun 5, 2007
 
I've been making and now WINNING token bets all week that once this Dr. Lee thing hit the papers, all the RST would come crawling out of their sewers and out from under their rocks to show everyone why Dr. Lee's comments about the Ramseys are wrong. And ALAS, here it came.

Yawn

predicatable, boring, nothing surprising, etc.

NOW, if you want to talk credibility, the latest discussion is the FRAUD of Edward Gelb who lied about being a doctor and having a PHd. So by the standards of the RST, the polygraph is no longer credible due to the scandal of Ed Gelb.

So the Ramseys must be lying after all

But WE knew that
Henrietta McPhee

Bristol, UK

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#11
Jun 5, 2007
 
I agree with Capricorn that this Ed Gelb polygrapher sounds like a bit of a charlatan to me. It's a bit like some of these so-called handwriting experts, who don't seem to have any proper credentials either.

It's just that, in my opinion, there's a difference between a polygrapher and an expert forensic witness like Dr Henry Lee. Polygraphs aren't accepted as evidence in this country. Also in much of America, as far as I can judge, because polygraphs are unreliable.

Dr Henry Lee has testified in several death penalty cases. If he has been cheating, then that's a serious matter.

Dr Henry Lee is a hard-nosed businessmen. He may be more obsessed with money then he is with justice.

There have been doubts expressed by other competent forensic experts about Henry Lee's testimony in several murder cases, including the OJ Simpson case, the Vincent Foster case, the Father Robinson case, the Phil Spector case and other not such high-profile cases.

In the Ramsey case Dr Henry Lee's work on red fibers, and his opinions about DNA in the Ramsey case are highly suspect.

The trouble is juries in America love Dr Henry Lee and believe anything he says. He seems to be some kind of a TV celebrity in America.

Most experienced judges in this country, and also probably in America, are a lot more skeptical about this kind of expert witness testimony. They have heard too many 'trust me I'm an expert' types in their careers who have been proved to be wrong in the past.

Judges have usually had practical experience of expert witnesses in disagreement with each other in a courtroom.

I once obtained one of Dr Henry Lee's books from the public library. I remember him mentioning the case of one forensic blood expert in America who manufactured and fabricated his results for court cases. I can't remember the name of that expert. It's just that forensic fraud is not something that's unknown to Dr Henry Lee.

I'm not saying that all the people Dr Henry Lee testifies against are completely innocent, or that everything he says is completely untrue. Frankly, I think Dr Henry Lee is a con artist.
Henrietta McPhee

Bristol, UK

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#12
Jun 5, 2007
 
This is a bit about forensic fraud from an Innocence project website:

Forensic Science Misconduct

"Because forensic science results can mean the difference between life and death in many cases, fraud and other types of misconduct in the field are particularly troubling. False testimony, exaggerated statistics and laboratory fraud have led to wrongful conviction in several states.

Since forensic evidence is offered by "experts," jurors routinely give it much more weight than other evidence. But when misconduct occurs, the weight is misplaced. In some instances, labs or their personnel are too closely tied to police and prosecutors, and therefore not impartial. Other times, a criminalist lacking the requisite knowledge embellishes findings, confident that he will not be caught since the lawyer, judge and jury have no background in the relevant science.

In some cases, critical evidence is consumed or destroyed, so that re-testing to uncover the misconduct is impossible. Evidence in these cases can never be tested again. Those wrongful convictions will never be overturned.

One weak link
The identification, collection, testing, storage, handling and reporting of any piece of forensic evidence involves a number of people. Evidence can be deliberately or accidentally mishandled at any stage of this process.

The risk of misconduct starts at the crime scene, where evidence can be planted, destroyed or mishandled. Then the evidence is sent by police to a state forensic lab or independent contractor, where it can be contaminated, poorly tested, consumed unnecessarily or mislabeled. The next step is a report, in which technicians and their superiors sometimes misrepresent results. DNA exonerations have revealed numerous instances of “drylabbing” evidence – reporting results when no test was actually performed. It's cheaper and faster – but fraudulent."

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