HENRY LEE'S BOOK
The value of a book is in the new insights it brings you, not for its support of things you already know and believe. Now, Rose has sent me a copy of Dr. Henry Lee's recent book, "Famous Crimes Revisited," and as my opinion about some things has changed from reading it, I must say that it was a great favor to receive this. The change in my perspective is not entirely welcome; nonetheless, it appears to be a better understanding of the truth of things, and, as Rose knows, that is the direction in which I strive.
DR. HENRY LEE: Of course, we remember Dr. Lee as the defense forensic expert with the 50 page curriculum vitae and the charming Taiwanese accent. He is the Chief Emeritus of the Connecticut State Police Forensic Science Laboratory, and has participated in the investigation of many notorious murder cases; his appearance in the Simpson case was almost foregone. In Simpson's trial Lee was the author of the much repeated quote, "Something wrong," and defense attorneys applied that to everything from Fuhrman's character to the poor quality of sandwiches that Simpson said he got for lunch in jail.
Lee condescendingly treated us to third grade lessons in the characteristics of falling blood drops, but more importantly, rushed to point out instances where the cops had failed to dot every "i" and cross every "t". This, of course was the basis of the defense position: if the police procedures were imperfect in any way, it was a virtual certainty that the cops had framed the defendant, the defense attorneys claimed. He also presented a few pieces of evidence that were passed over by the attorneys (I am particularly indebted to him for presenting graphics of the blood on Goldman's clothes).
On the whole, it was my impression at the time of the trial that Dr. Henry Lee was a skillful, careful, and insightful investigator that became disgusted with the manipulative whirlpool that he fell into in LA, and retired as soon as he could, to saner parts. But, now I read his book.
THE BOOK: In fact, Dr. Henry Lee is only the first credited author, the other is Dr. Jerry Labriola. A disclaimer in the front of the book says, "Dr. Henry Lee's participation throughout the book -- whether through his thoughts, description of events, analysis of evidence or conversations with Sam Constant -- is presented in bold typeface. All other text is presented in this [regular] typeface." By this means, I suppose Dr. Lee expects to be kept from accountability for anything but the boldface portions (about a quarter of the book). But, he is the first listed author, and it is on the strength of his name that most of these books were sold, so I, personally, hold him responsible for everything in the book, unless he explicitly expresses disagreement (which he does not). I consider that he had a responsibility to at least READ the parts of the book he did not write, and cause changes to be made in parts he did not agree with. So, disclaimer or no, I will comment on the entire Simpson case section as though Lee had written it.
Speaking of "parts" to the book, the prospective reader should know that this book revisits seven sensational murder cases (Sacco-Vanzetti, Lindbergh, Sam Sheppard, John F. Kennedy, Vincent Foster, JonBenet Ramsey, and O.J. Simpson). However, the Simpson case gets perhaps a quarter of the bulk in the book. (It is the only part I have read).
The mention of "Sam Constant" in the quoted disclaimer above is explained in another part of the disclaimer: "Sam Constant is a mythical character. He represents the sentiment of the times and appears throughout the book." In other words, Sam is Henry's imaginary friend ("He wore the same Yankee Doodle outfit... white shirt, red vest, blue pants and golden leggings.") that comes and goes in a supernatural way to advise him of the popular wisdom. The introduction of an imaginary friend into a book by a forensic scientist is a definite disappointment to me. And, unfortunately, a good deal of the bold faced text in the book is concerned with Dr. Lee's conversations with Sam.
CARELESSNESS: Now, I had never heard of Dr. Henry Lee before the Simpson trial (I have never been a true crime buff), but I would expect that a highly regarded forensic scientist would at least have the care to get his facts right. In the book, I find...
* Regarding Goldman's plans, "...Goldman who was preparing to leave work to go on a date with a female co-worker." I never heard this before; I thought that Goldman's plan was to meet (male) co-worker Stuart Tanner at the Baja Cantina later and "hang out" there to see if anything developed.
* Regarding the discovery of Nicole's body, "At 12:10 a.m., two passersby looked down the moonlit walkway of Nicole's condo and, through the open front gate, saw a woman crumpled in the alcove at the foot of several steps leading to a landing." The people who made this discovery were not "passersby" but were being led by Nicole's Akita who took them to the walk and pointed them to her body. There was no moon at that hour. The word "alcove" is usually (and more correctly) used to describe the little space in which Goldman's body was found. The space at the base of the stairs is just a continuation of the walk from the upper walkway to the part that goes through the gate and to the sidewalk. The place where Nicole was found is most often called, "the base of the stairs."
* Of Jill Shively's experience, "... she had declared she had observed O.J.'s Bronco leaving the Bundy scene..." Maybe it is quibbling of me, but Jill's observation was several blocks from the condo, and I think that Lee's way of expressing it makes it sound like a location more immediate to the murders than it was.
* Speaking of blood evidence at Rockingham, Lee says, "There were no traces of blood on doorknobs, on light switches, or on the light-colored carpeting in the house." He does not mention blood on the foyer floor, and an uncollected smear, seen and reported by Fuhrman, on the light switch in the laundry room. And, perhaps Dr. Lee is unacquainted with the Southern California "open" lifestyle: I do not have to touch any interior door knob to go anywhere in my house, under usual circumstances.
* Speaking of the timeline and the prosecution's (implied) contention that the murders occurred at 10:15, Lee says, "...[Simpson] had sufficient time to drive the 25 miles to Rockingham, dispose of the weapon and bloody clothes, clean up, and meet the limo driver." The distance, along the most obvious (and presumed) route from Nicole's condo to Simpson's estate is 2-3/4 miles.
This book had been sent to me with an opinion that it was "only a rehash" of the case. Well, there are a few interesting details, but a person should not read it as a summary of the case in which he will get the details completely right; there are many errors of fact, and some misleading representations.
PHOTOGRAPHS: Of course, one of the things we look for first in a new Simpson case book is whether there are any photographs that we have not previously collected. There are a couple here, and I will prepare an article later describing what they show.
EXCLUSIONARY RULE: I was VERY surprised to see a forensic scientist defend the exclusionary rule. (The legal technicality that excludes from consideration any evidence that is illegally collected by the authorities.) This issue has been contentious since it was invented, and it is not my purpose here to argue the pros and cons of whether it is a good thing in the courtroom. But, even if it is an appropriate basis to exclude some thing that are known from a jury, it flies in the face of what a forensic scientist is supposed to be doing. He is supposed to be understanding the situation, and formulating the best opinion he can about what events transpired in the crime. If he deliberately excludes from that contemplation some good information that exists, he is only doing half a job.
It may be, that when the attorneys take his work to court, some of it will be suppressed because of legal machinations. But, that is the lawyers' job to do; the forensic scientist's job is to make the best understanding of the case that he can, and throwing out blocks of evidence is contrary to that job. From this lengthy defense of the exclusionary rule, I get the idea that Henry Lee is a wannabe attorney, and has only settled for fame as a (sort of) forensic scientist as the best he could get. Much different than my original impression in1995.
MOUTHPIECE FOR THE DEFENSE ATTORNEYS' LINE: We saw in the case of Bosco how a man who hangs around the defense attorneys (and their investigators) begins to believe the defense spin on things -- even when simple explanations are available. Lee appears to have fallen into the same bad habits. He lists long numbers of "suspicious" indications in the evidence -- his notice of the fact that blood swatches were not completely dried before they were packaged for shipment to him prompted the "Something wrong" quote -- but many of these are simply matters of imperfect adherence to protocol, and not things that are a cause of reasonable suspicion about the motives of the police.
One example that never fails to exasperate me is among those that Lee mentions... "...blood from the back gate and sock had much higher concentrations of DNA than that in the blood samples collected on June 13, the morning after the crime." Scheck made a big deal of (and in fact elsewhere in the book Lee also cites) the fact that the June 13 blood samples were stored in an un-refrigerated van where they were subject to deterioration. That means the DNA concentration in the analyzed blood will be low. But then the low DNA concentration -- that Scheck has already explained was due to innocent causes -- is paraded as a reason to suspect that the cops engaged in doctoring the evidence to frame Simpson.
Other examples of Lee's hewing to the defense line uncritically...
* The "missing 1.5 ml of blood from Simpson's reference vial." Evidence was presented that this was not "missing," it was never collected. Not a hint of that possibility mentioned by Lee.
* Lee subscribes to the "Simpson jumped over the fence from the Salinger's back yard" theory. (A defense straw man advanced just because it was so easy to shoot down. I have never believe that Simpson went into the neighbor's yard.)
* He presents as a fact "EDTA in some of the blood samples," and does not mention that this was a VERY contentious question in the trial, and it was not at all proved that there was EDTA in those samples in larger quantities than would be naturally expected.
* He asks (suspiciously) "Why did it take 10 hours to get the coroner?" Because this was a high profile case, much of the "10 hours" was during darkness when the investigators had not been assembled, part of that time was spent at Rockingham, and as soon as the coroner showed up the scene would be disturbed, and the media frenzy would begin. There are plenty of reasons for this decision that do not involve anything suspicious.
* He is uncritical in repeating the defense claims that there is significance to a videograph of Simpson's bedroom floor that does not show the sock, and to a photograph of the back gate that does not show a blood stain. Both of these are easily (and reasonably) explained by camera angles that show other foreground objects obscuring these things. (Not all camera angles show all objects.)
* He succumbs to Cochran's semantic trick about "door sill" (see "Four Wisps of Blood" on our site at http://wagnerandson.com) that claimed that if Fuhrman saw anything on the door sill, he must have opened the door. Furthermore, Lee implies that Fuhrman made up the idea of "four wisps of blood" by saying, "Vannatter stated he ever saw the stains that Fuhrman had seen near the bottom of the driver's door." But, he fails to mention that Fung saw these stains.
* Also, Lee points out that Fuhrman and Vannatter give somewhat different accounts (as with the "four wisps of blood") of the situation at Rockingham, and he says of this, "Who was telling the truth," implying that one policeman was lying. If I see something, and honestly say so, and you do not look at the same place and so do not see it, and you tell of your experience, is "one of us lying?" This was one of the more egregious examples of Lee's thoughtlessly mouthing the defense line.
And much more. He also assails coroner Golden for saying, " the knife purchased by O.J. could have been the murder weapon," calling that opinion a "mistake" but in the next paragraph, he thinks the coroner's opinion is great when he says of Golden, "The coroner also suggested that based on his findings of 'two ... different types of stab wounds on the victims,' two different weapons may have been used. Thus the possibility of two perpetrators existed." But then, the defense case was not much noted for consistency.
THE GOOD STUFF: Regardless of these flaws and disappointment, I looked for some original and new information in the book. There were only a couple of things I could find: the photographs I mentioned before, and Lee's mention of testing the Ross Cutlery knife.
Dr. Lee did the test, himself (I did not know that before.) He says of his test, "... it was I who undertook the task. My conclusion was that it had never been used for any purpose whatsoever. No blood, tissue or hair fragments were found on it and the original price sticker was in place on the blade without any change of shape or form. In short, I found the knife to be in the same condition as it had been at the time of purchase." Well, we never did have much doubt on the point, but now we get the details from the horse's mouth. That's nice.
So, if you want new information about the Simpson case, I think you will be disappointed in Lee's book. But if you are unacquainted with the other six sensational cases he discusses, you might find something in there of interest.
Dick Wagner Van Nuys, CA (2/18/01) NG_711.TXT