A judge has denied the murder charges of two men who spent three decades in a Connecticut prison, in part because of the erroneous testimony of the well-known forensic expert Dr. Henry C. Lee.
The names of Ralph “Ricky” Birch and Shawn Henning are finally erased after being convicted in the death of 65-year-old retired truck driver Everett Carr on December 1, 1985, in New Milford.
The men were partially convicted on the basis of testimony from world-renowned criminologist Lee, who worked on the OJ Simpson and JonBenet Ramsey cases.
Last year, Lee’s testimony was found to be false after tests revealed that stains on a towel he believed to be consistent with blood turned out to be something else, and the court decided to open a new case, according to Fox61.
On Friday, Supreme Court judge Dan Shaban dismissed the charges against them, as the state decided not to reason the men again, reasoning that the witnesses had died and the new evidence could not have tied the couple to the murder.
The men wore black and white shirts that said “I didn’t do it” and “I am innocent” on Friday, as they ended up walking around after years in prison after their teenage arrests.
Ralph ‘Ricky’ Birch (left) and Shawn Henning (right) have finally erased their names and have been released from prison after spending three decades in prison for a murder they did not commit. On Friday, a judge dismissed the charges against them and voted to retry after a forensic expert’s testimony in the case was found to be false
Finally free: Ricky Birch (second from left) and Shawn Henning (second from right) celebrate their release and dismissed their attorneys’ charges on Friday at Torrington Superior Court in Torrington, Connecticut
In 1985, Carr was killed around midnight at his home. His head was hit by something heavy, and he was stabbed 27 times, cutting his jugular vein.
The crime scene was a bloodbath, with splashes from the plinth to the ceiling.
Lee had claimed to have found a stained towel in an upstairs bathroom of Carr’s house, and his repeated tests on the stains proved they were blood in the 1985 murder case
Birch and Henning, who were 18 and 17 respectively, were troubled and homeless teenagers living in a stolen car at the time and breaking into money to raise money for drugs, according to the Hartford Courant.
Carr allegedly interrupted a burglary, making Birch and Henning suspects.
However, the horrific nature of the crime scene meant that the suspects would be drenched in blood – but there was no trace of it on the teenagers or in their cars or between their belongings.
Lee had claimed to have found a stained towel in an upstairs bathroom of Carr’s house, and his repeated tests for the stains revealed they were blood.
Prosecutors suggested that the teens commit the murder and use the towel to clean up.
Lee is an esteemed criminologist who has worked on famous cases including the murder of JonBenet Ramsey, the OJ Simpson murder case, the murder of Laci Peterson, a forensic investigation after 9/11, and he has re-investigated the murder of John F. Kennedy.
Shawn Henning (left) and Ralph Birth (right) depicted in these undated mugshots from Connecticut Department of Correction. They were convicted as teenagers and imprisoned for over 30 years
Henning hugs Lori Freedman, a social worker at Centurion, on the steps of the Connecticut Superior Court in Torrington Friday, July 10
Ralph Birch, faces, hugs Shawn Henning, outside the courtroom in Connecticut Superior Court on Friday during the emotional hearing
Andrew O’Shea, left, counsel to Ralph Birch, right, speaking Friday at the Connecticut Superior Court in Torrington, Connecticut
Birch and Henning were convicted in separate criminal murders and sentenced to 50 and 55 years’ imprisonment respectively.
In 2008, Birch and Henning received a last resort to subject the bath towel to new genetic tests that were not available at the time of their trials.
In those tests, no data was found to indicate that the towel had even been tested before – not by Lee or anyone else.
When tested, the results showed that the red-colored spots were not blood, but an inorganic substance.
It took another 11 years for the appeal to reach the Supreme Court, and their convictions for murder were overturned in a unanimous decision that harshly criticized Lee and his testimony.
“It is indisputable that Lee, as a representative of the state police forensic laboratory, should have known that the bath towel had not been blood tested,” judge Richard N. Palmer wrote in court.
“He, like any other witness, had an affirmative obligation to review all relevant test reports before testifying, to reasonably ensure that his testimony would accurately reflect the findings of those tests.
Crime scene: In 1985, Carr was severely beaten in his home around midnight. His head was hit by something heavy, and he was stabbed 27 times, cutting his jugular vein. The crime scene was a bloodbath, with splashes from the plinth to the ceiling
A look at the bathroom in the house from the murder scene above. Lee claimed that a towel in the bathroom contained blood, but it was not tested when tested
“If you decide otherwise, the state could be convicted on the basis of false or misleading testimonials, although the mistake could easily have been avoided if the witness had only exercised due care.”
However, Lee stands behind his job and claims that he has done all the tests he said he did and defends the results firmly.
He says he has become the target of a criminal justice tactic that attacks expert witnesses.
A lawyer made a joint statement for Birch and Henning on Friday stating that the Connecticut Forensic Laboratory has conducted DNA testing on approximately 100 items over the past decade, including crime scene items, Bitch and Henning’s personal items, and the car in which they lived.
Lee is an esteemed criminologist who has worked on famous cases including the murder of JonBenet Ramsey, the OJ Simpson murder case (above 1995), the murder of Laci Peterson, a forensic investigation after 9/11, and the murder of John F. Kennedy re-examined
Lee pictured with prosecutor Hank Goldberg, noting a photo of the Bundy crime scene in OJ Simpson’s murder trial
“Neither test linked either man to Carr’s murder,” the lawyer wrote.
In July 2019, a state judge ordered the release of Birch, while prosecutors decided to try him and Henning again. Henning was released on parole the previous year.
Mr. Henning and Mr. Birch are now making a productive contribution to society, while also working on the trauma of thirty years of unlawful detention. We hope the state will take responsibility for the profound human consequences of obtaining convictions for murder and lengthy prison terms through indisputably “false or misleading” testimonials and arguments, “said the duo attorney.
We also remain hopeful that the state will use the collected forensic evidence and more robust law enforcement tactics to track down the real assassin or assassins of Mr. Carr, ”added the attorney’s statement.