DOES LEE FAVOR NEW FOSTER PROBE?

Reed Irvine
Chairman, Accuracy in Media

March 23, 2001


Globe, a supermarket tabloid, in its March 27 issue, published the stunning claim that the best known of the three outside consultants hired by Kenneth Starr to analyze the evidence in the death of Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster would now like to see the Foster case reopened. The expert is Dr. Henry C. Lee, the former head of the Connecticut State Police Forensics Laboratory, who is almost always described as "renowned" because of his forensic analysis in a number of high profile cases, including the trial of O.J. Simpson.

Globe reporter Dawna Kaufmann interviewed Dr. Lee on Feb. 20, at the annual convention of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in Seattle where he was speaking. She had his new book, "Famous Crimes Revisited," which discusses the Foster case. It includes passages that suggest that Lee harbors serious doubts about the suicide finding. She lined up at a convention reception and asked him to autograph his book. As he was doing so, she told him that she had written articles about him and two of the cases covered in the book. Her article on Foster hadn't yet been published, and she asked if he would like to make a statement about reopening the case.

She says he replied, "As a scientist I can only give a recommendation. But I would like to see the case reopened, but I don't think it will happen." She thanked him and immediately went to her room and typed the quote, which became the Globe's lead, with the omission of "but I don't think it will happen."

This is important because Dr. Lee's report was one of the main pillars on which Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr built his suicide finding. His 114-page report cites Dr. Lee no less than 53 times. Lee's report is less supportive of the suicide theory than Starr's heavy reliance on it suggests, which may explain why it took an FOIA suit to get it and the two other consultants' reports released. Its summary and conclusions begin with what Lee describes in his book as an "upbraiding statement." It lists six flaws in the investigation that he said make "a complete reconstruction" of Foster's death impossible. Lee concluded that the evidence he examined was "consistent with suicide," but he omitted evidence contradicting that conclusion that he lists in his book.

These are the most important items in his list, some of which I have adjusted for accuracy:

  1. The "blowback" material was minimal even though Foster apparently fired the gun deep in his mouth;
  2. No powder burns were found in the mouth and no teeth were broken from gun recoil;
  3. Very little blood was found at the scene, either on his body or on the ground;
  4. The body was found in a highly unusual position for a self-inflicted gunshot wound into the mouth: too neat with his arms at his sides;
  5. The fatal bullet was never recovered;
  6. Foster owned a modern silver revolver, but the one found in his hand was black and composed of parts of two 80-year-old guns;
  7. A paramedic reported seeing a small-caliber wound on Foster's neck under the jaw, which some say is confirmed by a crime scene photo;
  8. Suspicious-looking people were seen around a car with Arkansas tags that was parked in the spot where Foster's car was found an hour later when the police and rescue workers arrived. The official investigations say this was Foster's car even though three eyewitnesses said it was a different color and model. e.

The above list omits some of the most important evidence, but it is enough to show that Dr. Lee is well aware of the fact that the evidence of murder is far stronger than the feeble evidence his book lists supporting suicide. That was the message that Dawna Kaufmann got from his book and which he essentially confirmed when he told her that he would like to see the Foster case reopened.

Dr. Lee strongly denied having made that statement. I didn't know at the time who the reporter was and the circumstances under which the brief interview took place. I have left messages for him saying that I now have that information, but my calls have not been returned. In my opinion Dawna Kaufmann is telling the truth. I expect that Dr. Lee, when his memory is refreshed, will do the same.

Reed Irvine can be reached at ri@aim.org


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