A former New York businessman walked out of a Pennsylvania prison today as a free man after spending 24 years of his life behind bars. 79-year-old Han Tak Lee was convicted of setting a fire that killed his 20-year-old daughter in 1989. But a judge ruled earlier this month that the case against him was based on outdated arson science.
U.S. District Judge William Nealon threw out Lee’s conviction and sentence of life without parole earlier this month. He gave prosecutors 120 days to decide whether they want to appeal. FOX43 reached out to the Monroe County District Attorney, who prosecuted Lee in 1990, to see if he would appeal. But we didn’t get a phone call returned. The Pennsylvania Innocence Project, an organization that works to free people for crimes they didn’t commit, tells FOX43 they worked on Lee’s case for over a decade. Lee addressed the public after his release with the help of a translator..
“I don’t know how to express my happiness now to finally put this behind me and become a normal US citizen,” said Han Tak Lee.
Lee spent nearly a third of his life, isolated, behind bars. Many of his supporters have been behind him since the beginning.
“Very heavy on my mind because innocent people is suffering. 25 years almost a quarter century,” said Nicholas Lee, a friend of Lee.
A judge ruled that the case against Lee was based on what is now known as flawed fire science evidence. But Lee’s attorney, Peter Goldberger says this evidence was introduced by a scientist in the early ’90s.
“It’s fair to say that not everyone in his field accepted his findings,” said Goldberger.
Goldberger says this case sets an example for other similar cases around the country.
“This case is one of a handful so far. There will be an avalanche soon of cases where the same junk science was used to convict innocent people of arson,” said Goldberger.