July 9, 2020

Connecticut’s Own Dr. Henry Lee Speaks at Valley Regional High School

Dr. Henry Lee Speaking at Valley Regional High School (photo by Jenny Tripp)

On April 28, the Essex Library Association hosted world-renowned forensic scientist and former Chief of State Police, Dr. Henry Lee.  He intrigued the audience with his knowledge, entertained with his sense of humor while encouraging audience participation (handing out plastic badges and flashlights at one stage!)

The presentation comprised two sections: first, his road to becoming a forensic scientist and then, his cases.

Lee said that he was the youngest police captain in his province in China.  In 1976, he came to the University of New Haven and later endowed the College of Forensic Science at the University of New Haven.  Lee’s inspiring quote to the audience was, “Make the impossible possible.” 

Lee’s own such moment was creating the crime laboratory at the University of New Haven.  He then followed up that achievement by becoming Chief of Connecticut State Police in 1998.

Lee compared and contrasted what he dubbed, “The CSI Effect,” spawned by the popular TV series, “CSI” — an abbreviation for Crime Scene Investigation — and what “CSI” is like in real life.  While most characters in TV’s “CSI” work in pairs or alone, in reality, Lee stated that it is teamwork that is most important.

He explained to the audience what the important steps are in investigating a crime scene.  The first 24 hours are the most important but sometimes, there are exceptions to rules, for example in one case when a blizzard preventing the CSI team arriving on time so Lee put a hold on the garbage past the 24-hour deadline as he believed it might hold evidence the team had not had time to review.  Lee stressed it is important to, “Observe everything,” and, “Take pictures,” of the crime scene.

Saying that he was always an extra pair of eyes on cases, Lee stressed that even the smallest piece of evidence can exonerate or confirm someone’s guilt.

Lee said that the job of the forensic scientist is to, “Speak for the (dead) victim,” noting, “Forensic science is a secret language.  The victim has all of the clues to tell us what happened.”

Lee also worked on the John F. Kennedy assassination reinvestigation.  The bullet from Kennedy’s body was wiped clean after the assassination and there was no way to tell if some of then Texas Governor Connelly’s DNA was on the bullet.