Former teen murder convicts Ralph ‘Ricky’ Birch and Shawn Henning finally have their names cleared after spending three decades in jail for a murder they didn’t commit
A Connecticut judge Friday dismissed charges against the two men convicted over 30 YEARS ago for murder based on flawed testimony of world-famous forensic expert Dr. Henry Lee
They were convicted for murder of Everett Carr, 65, in December 1985
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 – leaving a bloody scene
Dr. Lee claimed he found a towel in the home that the pair allegedly used to wash blood off themselves in the killing
A 2019 testing of that towel using new genetic technology found no blood on the towel at all, the red color was from an inorganic substance
Birch and Henning, who were 18 and 17 respectively, troubled and homeless teenagers living out of a stolen car
Lee has worked on famous cases including the JonBenet Ramsey, OJ Simpson, and Laci Peterson murder cases
On Friday a judge also voted against trying them again after testimony from a forensic expert in the case proved to be erroneous
The state Supreme Court in 2019 vacated the felony murder convictions of both men
Ralph ‘Ricky’ Birch [second left) and Shawn Henning [second right] Friday celebrate their release and dismissed charges with their attorneys on Friday at Torrington Superior Court in Torrington, Ct. The judge dismissed the murder charges against them after testimony from a forensic expert in the case proved to be erroneous – Both men had served 30 years for a murder they didn’t commit
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.
Ralph ‘Ricky’ Birch [left] and Shawn Henning [right], finally have their names cleared by a Connecticut court on July 10. They have been released from prison after spending three decades in jail for a murder they didn’t commit. A case that highlighted gross prosecutorial misconduct
The ruling by Superior Court Judge Dan Shaban came after the state Supreme Court in 2019 vacated the felony murder convictions of both men.
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.
Expert forensics witness Dr Henry Lee [photo], 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 in the 1985 murder case
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.
Lee is an esteemed criminologist who has worked on famous cases including the JonBenet Ramsey murder, the OJ Simpson murder case, Laci Peterson’s killing, a post 9/11 forensic probe and he re-investigated the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
No justice when you are poor: Shawn Henning [left] and Ralph Birth [right], seen in these undated Connecticut Department of Correction mugshots. They were convicted as teens and spent over 30 years in jail, including 11 years after the state’s case was found to be cobbled without merit or a shred of evidence
Shawn Henning hugs [left], Lori Freedman, a social worker at Centurion, on the steps of the Connecticut Superior Court in Torrington Friday July 10
Ralph Birch, facing, hugs Shawn Henning, outside the courtroom in Connecticut Superior Court on Friday at the emotional hearing
Birch and Henning were convicted in separate trials of felony murder and sentenced to 50 and 55 years in jail respectively.
In 2008 Birch and Henning got a last-ditch appeal to have the bathroom towel subjected to new genetic testing that was unavailable at the time of their trials.
That testing found no records showing the towel had even been tested before – not by Lee or anyone else.
When it was tested results showed the red-colored stains wasn’t blood, but an inorganic substance.
Andrew O’Shea, left, counsel for Ralph Birch, right, speaks at Connecticut Superior Court in Torrington, Connecticut on Friday
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.
‘It is inarguable that Lee, as the representative of the state police forensic laboratory, should have known that the bathroom towel had not been tested for blood,’ Justice Richard N. Palmer wrote for the court.
‘He, like any such witness, had an affirmative obligation to review any relevant test reports before testifying so as to reasonably ensure that his testimony would accurately reflect the findings of those tests.
‘To conclude otherwise would permit the state to gain a conviction on the basis of false or misleading testimony even though the error readily could have been avoided if the witness merely had exercised due diligence.’
At the heart of this miscarriage of justice is the testimony of famed criminologist Henry Lee.
For decades Lee crisscrossed the country working on some of America’s most famous murder cases including the JonBenet Ramsey murder, the OJ Simpson murder case [photo in 1995], Laci Peterson’s killing, and a post 9/11 forensic probe.
He famously re-investigated the assassination of president John F. Kennedy.
However, in the Everett Carr murder case three decades ago, he appears to have delivered expert forensics testimony on behalf of the state, based on less than diligent processing of crime scene evidence.H
However, Dr. Lee is standing by his work, claiming he did all the tests he said he did and is staunchly defending the results.
He claims he has become a target of a criminal defense tactic that involves attacking expert witnesses.
A defense attorney 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 the young vagrants were using as a home at the time.
‘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 decided 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.