Public Defenders or Court-Appointed Attorneys?
One Question too Many

Dumbing Down Dr. Lee

Henry Lee is the darling of forensic science. Recall his inscrutable uttering in the OJ case? And now he has his own show on Court TV, and books, and a lecture tour, and... Perhaps that explains why some prosecutors in Connecticut are hesitant to call him as a witness any longer. As one muttered the other day, "He's spread too thin."

The ubiquitous Dr. Lee has ghost writers preparing books, a television show, consulting gigs here and there. He's a whirlwind of opinion about the hidden vectors solving crimes.  On the theory that timing is everything, he's riding the tide created by a new-found public fascination with forensic science all the way to the bank. His website is one of the slickest I've ever seen. check it out

I worry that all this hype about forensic evidence is creating a public eager to believe anything.

Long gone are the days in which television wise guys would mutter: "You got nothin'; it's only circumstantial evidence." Today the more remote the clue, the more spectacular the story. There must, Virginia, be a needle in every haystack.

Voir dire of prosecptive jurors is more important than ever.

Question: Do you understand the difference between direct and circumstantial evidence?

Answer: I am not sure.

Question: Direct evidence is something someone actually perceived. Circumstantial evidence is an inference drawn from the perceived to the unperceived. Does that make sense?

Answer: Yes.

Question: Do you watch crime shows?

Answer: Yes.

Question: What do you like about them?

Answer: The way everything comes together at the end of the show.

Question: Do you understand that there are no guarantees in a real trial that loose ends will be tied up? In fact, there can be more questions at the end of a trial than at the beginning?

That is the point, and it is a point that the media's glorification of forensic drama, and Henry Lee's ubiquitous chatter, may obscure. I fear that a forensic-happy culture will encourage jurors to draw inferences in favor of the state, inferences that help "solve" crimes at the expense of justice.

One of Lee's wannabe proteges, a forensic dentist named Gus Karazulis, is a case in point. He testified about bite-mark evidence used to convict a client of mine, Alfred Swinton. He boasts about his testimony. See Gus Brags. Law enforcement officials brag about it , too. See More hype. If Gus testifies in a trial near you, ask him about how he used to bite himself as part of his scientific testing.

What the dentist and law-enforcement officers don't talk about is the Connecticut Supreme Court opinion in State v. Swinton. That case held the computer-generated evidence inadmissable in the Swinton case as without proper foundation. See State v. Swinton.

The hype's the thing in the new world of forensic hot dogs. Truth? That's optional.