NEW HAVEN – A man who has spent more than 30 years behind bars for murder is petitioning for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence.
Wendall Hasan was sentenced to 80 years in prison in 1986 for the July 2, 1985 murder of George Tyler in Darien. Hasan was convicted of felony murder and burglary in the first degree.
Three days after the murder, a plumber found Tyler’s credit cards clogged in a toilet at Hasan’s home in Norwalk. Police seized a pair of Puma sneakers from that home.
According to a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Dr. Henry Lee testified that human blood was found on that shoe, and that the blood had a factor that matched Tyler’s. “Dr. Lee further testified that about 40 percent of people have” that same blood factor, the lawsuit says.
New DNA tests done in 2014 found that stains on the sneakers were not blood. The 2014 tests were granted as part of the state’s post-conviction DNA testing program involving the Connecticut Innocence Project and the Chief State’s Attorney’s office. The state-run lab tests found that both Tyler and his wife were eliminated as contributors to the DNA profiles on the shoes.
This lawsuit comes just weeks after the Connecticut Supreme Court ordered a new trial for two men convicted of a 1985 New Milford murder, based on testimony from Dr. Lee. The court cited incorrect testimony about blood evidence by Dr. Lee. In the days after the ruling Henry Lee defended his work.
Hasan’s push for a new trial comes just over a year after Connecticut lawmakers passed “An Act Concerning Newly Discovered Evidence.” Public Act 18-61 is aimed at allowing new trials based on evidence and technology not available at the time of the original trial.
If the shoe fits
The lawsuit also points to reports submitted by Connecticut State Forensic Lab expert Ken Zercie. According to the suit, Zercie reported that the Puma shoe found at Hasan’s home was “consistent” with the type of shoe that left a bloody shoe print at the scene of the murder. After attending an FBI footwear class in Quantico, Virginia, Zercie reported “individual characteristics” establishing that the sneaker seized was the shoe that made the blood print, the suit says. The lawsuit claims “Lee and/or Zercie misled the jury about Zercie’s actual certifications as a forensic examiner.”
The lawsuit also criticizes testimony by podiatrist Robert Rinaldi, who examined Hasan’s feet and compared them with the sneakers. Rinaldi determined Hasan was the only person to wear the Puma sneakers. Although Rinaldi “admitted that his testimony was not based on science” he was allowed to testify for the state, the lawsuit says.
The civil lawsuit seeks no money, just a new trial. Dr. Henry Lee told FOX 61 he plans to hold a press conference at the Henry Lee Institute of Forensic Science at the University of New Haven Thursday morning.
Read the full complaint below: