Sunday, July 27, 2014         

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Writing sample wanted for trial

By Nelson Daranciang


The state wants to get a handwriting sample from murder defendant Jason Lee McCormick to compare it with what was written on the murder victim's body.

McCormick, 36, is awaiting trial in state Circuit Court on second-degree murder charges in connection with the 1996 death of visiting University of Pittsburgh professor Robert T. Henderson.

Police found Henderson's naked, decomposing body July 17, 1996, in a Waikiki condominium.

The Honolulu Medical Examiner said Henderson was hanged or strangled. Written on his buttocks in blue ink in capital letters was the phrase, "I rape little boys so I must die."

The autopsy said a pen was stabbed into the back of Henderson's left leg.

Handwriting evidence is not as conclusive as DNA or fingerprints, said former Deputy Prosecutor Victor Bakke. For the state to ask for a handwriting sample after McCormick is already charged suggests to him that the state is either trying to boost its case or tying up a loose end, he said.

The state could also be asking for a handwriting analysis so a jury would not question why it was not done, even if the results turn out inconclusive, he said.

There has to be enough writing that is not distorted in order to make a handwriting analysis, said Lloyd James Josey, a forensic document examiner for 35 years, 20 of them with the Honolulu Police Department. He retired from HPD three years ago and is now in private practice, primarily handling noncriminal cases.

To do a proper comparison, the defendant has to provide a writing sample on a surface similar to what it is being compared, Josey said. The surface has to match the texture, softness and curvature of the body.

"It wouldn't be an easy thing to do," he said.

Police had no suspects in Henderson's murder until 2008.

That is when McCormick confessed twice to police that he killed Henderson, said lawyer Michael Green, who previously represented McCormick. The first confession came while he was in the Queen's Medical Center's Kekela Unit for psychiatric patients; the second was after he was discharged, saying he did not think police believed him the first time.

An Oahu grand jury indicted McCormick in May in connection with Henderson's murder.

Henderson, 51, was visiting the University of Hawaii to lecture and attend some summer workshops. He was last seen on the Manoa campus on July 12, 1996.

When he did not appear for a presentation July 15, UH officials called police and reported him missing. Police found Henderson's body in the Ilikai condominium he had been borrowing from a friend.

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