BANGOR — Dr. Henry C. Lee left his home in Connecticut at 3 a.m. Tuesday to drive to Maine to testify in the murder trial of David Fleming.
He was not compensated for his time, travel or testimony. Such things have been eliminated as Maine has continued to cut its judiciary budget.
The day before, Lee testified in a court in San Diego and sometime in the next few months he could be on the stand for his part in the “trial of the century” of O.J. Simpson in Los Angeles.
His testimony in Bangor on Tuesday lasted about an hour and he immediately left the courthouse to head back home.
He is one of the nation’s top criminologists and a world-renowned forensic expert.
At 55 he has investigated more than 5,000 homicides, was involved in the 1980 murder case of the “Scarsdale Diet” author, Dr. Herman Tarnower, testified for the defense in the William Kennedy Smith rape trial, and is on the defense witness list in the Simpson case.
With such notoriety, why would the famed doctor take the time to drive through the fog to testify in a Maine murder trial?
“This country has provided me with the opportunity for a good education. I make a good living and have a nice family. I feel obligated to pay back to society and this country that which I know. I feel a strong responsibility to society and the people,” the doctor said, standing in the damp March wind outside the Penobscot County courthouse Tuesday.
Lee, a native of China and former police captain in Taiwan, is director of Connecticut’s State Police Forensic Science Laboratory.
According to an article published in the Los Angeles Times, Lee and his wife came to New York in 1965 with two suitcases, $50 and limited knowledge of the English language.
He was the youngest of 13 children and fled wartime China for Taiwan with his mother. His father was killed by mainland Communists, according to the LA Times.
On Tuesday, he said that once he was in the United States, he worked as a waiter and a martial arts instructor while he earned a second bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and eventually his doctorate.
Today he is considered an expert in DNA, which is playing a crucial role in the prosection’s case against 36-year-old Fleming, who is accused of murdering 18-year-old Lisa Garland in the fall of 1990.
Fleming’s murder trial represents the first time DNA evidence has been used in the state, and is considered a precedent-setting case by the state’s legal community.
Lee’s interest is strictly scientific. He is interested that “intact semen” was found in Garland’s body five weeks after the prosecution says she was killed.
On Tuesday, Lee testified specifically about sperm and his occasional jokes provided rare comic relief in an otherwise graphic and sobering trial.
When asked about his pending testimony in the Simpson trial, he said he regretted taking on the case.
“Forensic scientists deal with finding the scientific truth. This case is no longer about finding that truth,” he said.