Henry Lee has just been announced as one of the forensic experts who will be providing evidence for the Casey Anthony trial scheduled for January. Lee has been a favorite of defense attorneys and has worked on high profile cases over the years. The public is used to his shiny television image, but do forensic experts really provide balanced views that juries respect or are they seen as legal whores by taking predicted positions?
After spending many years as a forensic rehabilitation counselor as well as questioned document examiner, and providing testimony upon request for plaintiff and defense; I have seen it cut both ways. One attorney demanded that I take his side, stating that I needed to understand that I had been hired to support his case. This is counter to the ethical code of experts, however, that clearly defines the expert’s responsibility as being one that seeks the truth, however that shakes out.
The public opinion of experts is shaded by television programs that show them on witness stands being interrogated by attorneys. Television viewers see the cleverness, the intrigue and the design of the case, as the attorneys line up witnesses. However, the selection of an expert is often well-considered; and the responsible attorney selects one who has worked for both prosecution and defense attorneys so that they can be determined credible by a jury. An attorney will even ask an expert to recite the number of cases that have been worked on either side, prosecution or defense, during depositions and will use this information to upset an expert, if the attorney is able to establish that the opinion given is biased.
Lee has a sterling career and has established himself as an expert by preparing himself well. According to his website, Dr. Henry Lee
is “Chief Emeritus of the Connecticut State Police, Founder and Professor of the Forensic Science Program at the University of New Haven, Editor of Seven Academic Journals, author/ co-author of 30 books and over 300 articles.” That’s an impressive list of credentials, it appears. Lee obtained national prominence in the public during the O.J. Simpson case, where he served as a witness for the defense. He was said to have turned things around for Simpson, helping to free the former football who was on trial for killing his wife Nicole Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman. He also worked defense for the Phil Spector murder trial as well as for the famous Scott Peterson, found guilty of killing his wife Laci and unborn child. He has also worked defense for William Kennedy Smith, Kobe Bryant, JonBenet Ramsey, Scott Peterson, and Michael Skakel. Vincent Foster But with a sterling career and an impressive list of high profile cases where Lee has been an expert, has his credibility been challenged as a result?
The North County Times
reported how Lee’s veracity was questioned in the Spector murder trial. Lee was accused of having removed a piece of acrylic fingernail from the corpse of Linda Clarkson, whom Spector was accused at his trial of having killed. His credibility in the Spector case was challenged based upon the missing evidence, with which he was accused of tampering, not specifically his position as chiefly a defense witness.
On the defense side Lee’s fame has been obtained through his elaborate showmanship. With the O.J .Simpson case .jurors and the public television office were said to be mesmerized by Lee, who used a magnifying glass in his presentations, and holding up a photo of a shoe print declared: "Something's wrong.” This short statement, and Lee’s explanations, cast doubt on whether or not the shoes allegedly worn by O.J. Simpson at the time of the killings were Simpsons.
Lee hasn’t just worked for the defense, however, as documented by the book Forensics Under Fire: Are Bad Science and Dueling Experts Corrupting Criminal Justice?
by Jim Fisher. He worked on the prosecution's side on the case of Halle Craft, whose husband was found guilty of murdering her. His evidence was found impressive at the time by the jurors. But it has been the high profile defense cases like that of Scott Peterson and O.J. Simpson that has really created Lee’s famous reputation of being a flamboyant, but competent, expert.
The assignment of Henry Lee to work for the defense of Cayle Anthony may or may not be a good move by the attorney in this case, Jose Baez, That’s because Scott Peterson and William Kennedy were found guilty and Lee withheld his testimony after being accused of tampering with evidence in the Phil Spector trial. It will be a “wait and see” from now on, as the case of Casey Anthony, accused of killing her daughter Caylee, is apt to draw a large audience for television, with Henry Lee now listed as one of its most interesting personalities.
In the meantime Florida authorities continue to sift through evidence found at the location of a child’s body near the Anthony grandparents home in Florida, with many believing it is likely that of Caylee. Information on their findings is anticipated to occur sometime this week.
Carol Forsloff, the author of this news article, has been qualified in military, criminal and civil courts as a questioned document examiner and in the State of Louisiana as a forensic rehabilitation counselor, and in the State of Hawaii as a forensic rehabilitation counselor and forensic life care planning expert.