A judge has dismissed murder charges against two men who spent three decades in a Connecticut prison due in part to the erroneous testimony of renown forensic expert Dr. Henry C. Lee.
Ralph ‘Ricky’ Birch and Shawn Henning finally have their names cleared after they were convicted in the December 1, 1985 stabbing death of retired truck driver 65-year-old Everett Carr in New Milford.
The men were convicted, in part, based on the testimony of world-famous criminologist Lee, who worked on the OJ Simpson and JonBenet Ramsey cases.
Last year Lee’s testimony was revealed to be flawed after tests showed that stains on a towel he claimed was consistent with blood, turned out to be something else, and the court decided on opening a new case, according to Fox61.
On Friday Superior Court Judge Dan Shaban dismissed the charges against them as the state decided against retrying the men reasoning witnesses had died and retests of evidence failed to tie the pair to the murder.
The men wore black and white shirts that said ‘I didn’t do it’ and ‘I’m innocent’ on Friday as they finally walked free after spending years in jail following their arrests as teenagers.
In the 1985 slaying Carr was severely beaten in his home around midnight. His head was hit with something heavy and he was viciously stabbed 27 times, severing his jugular vein.
The crime scene was a bloodbath, with spatters from the baseboard to the ceiling.
Birch and Henning, who were 18 and 17 respectively, were troubled and homeless teenagers at the time living in a stolen car and committing burglaries to raise money for drugs, according to the Hartford Courant.
Carr was believed to have interrupted a burglary, which made Birch and Henning suspects.
However, the grisly nature of the crime scene meant the suspects would have been soaked with blood – but there wasn’t a trace of it on the teens or in their car or among their possessions.
Lee had claimed he found a stained towel in an upstairs bathroom at Carr’s house and his repeated tests on the stains proved they were blood.
Prosecutors suggested the teens committed the murder and used the towel to clean up.
It took another 11 years until the appeal reached the Supreme Court and their murder convictions were reversed in a unanimous decision that was harshly critical of Lee and his testimony.
A lawyer issued a joint statement for Birch and Henning on Friday stating that Connecticut’s forensic lab conducted DNA testing on approximately 100 items over the last decade, including items from the crime scene, Bitch and Henning’s personal items, and the car they were living in.
‘None of that testing connected either man to the Carr homicide,’ the attorney wrote.
In July 2019 a state judge ordered for the release of Birch while prosecutors decaded whether to retry him and Henning. Henning was released on probation the year prior.
‘Mr. Henning and Mr. Birch are now productively contributing to society as they also work to overcome the trauma of thirty years of wrongful incarceration. We hope that the state will take responsibility for the profound human consequences of obtaining murder convictions and long terms of imprisonment through indisputable “false or misleading” testimony and arguments,’ a lawyer for the duo said.
‘We also remain hopeful that the state will use the forensic evidence that has been gathered, and more sound law enforcement tactics, to identify Mr. Carr’s actual killer or killers,’ the lawyer’s statement added.