Barry Charles Scheck (born September 19, 1949) is an American lawyer. He received national media attention while serving on O.J. Simpson's defense team, collectively dubbed the "Dream Team", helping to win an acquittal in the highly publicized murder case. Scheck is the director of the Innocence Project and a professor at Yeshiva University's Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City.[1]

Barry Scheck
Scheck at the LBJ Presidential Library, 2014
Barry Charles Scheck

(1949-09-19) September 19, 1949 (age 70)
Alma materYale University (B.A.)
UC Berkeley School of Law (J.D.)
  • Attorney
  • Law professor
Known forMember of the O.J. Simpson defense team

Early lifeEdit

Scheck was born in Queens, New York, and grew up in Port Washington, New York. He graduated from the Horace Mann School in Riverdale, New York in 1967. He went on to receive a B.A. from Yale University in 1971 (majoring in Economics and American Studies) and a Master of City Planning (M.C.P.) and Juris Doctor (J.D.) from University of California, Berkeley in 1974.

Cases he defendedEdit

Scheck was the personal lawyer for the Hedda Nussbaum case, in 1987. He both defended her and assisted in getting the charges against her dropped, while also assisting in ensuring Joel Steinberg's arrest and suing him in the civil case Nussbaum vs. Steinberg.[2] Scheck was part of the team that defended O. J. Simpson in his 1995 trial. He was associated with the clearing in 1999 of Dennis Fritz and Ron Williamson who had spent 11 years in prison of wrongful murder convictions.[3] He was lead lawyer who defended British au pair Louise Woodward in her 1997 murder trial.

More recently, he served as attorney of the wrongly accused Duke University lacrosse player Reade Seligmann to represent him in a civil lawsuit filed on October 5, 2007 against the city of Durham, North Carolina, and its former district attorney, Mike Nifong. He also was responsible for clearing John Restivo, Dennis Halstead, and John Kogut after 18 years in prison for the 1985 Lynbrook rape and murder of Theresa Fusco, when DNA evidence proved them innocent and implicated others.[4]

People of the State of California v. Orenthal James SimpsonEdit

Defense Forensic DNA expert Dr. Henry Lee published Blood Evidence: How DNA is Revolutionizing the Way We Solve Crimes (2003) and devotes the last two chapters to describing how Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld raised doubt about the DNA evidence in the Simpson case. In Bad Blood: Part I he notes that Scheck and Neufeld at the time had established national reputations for doubting the scientific underpinnings of DNA fingerprinting and only shortly before the trial, in 1992, accepted its validity and founded the Innocence project. They were both hired initially to challenge the admissibility of the DNA evidence in this case but decided to waive the Frye hearing because the chances of a favorable ruling from Judge Lance Ito was very unlikely. Scheck and Neufeld's new strategy was to argue that the mistakes made during evidence collection rendered the results unreliable but neither of the Defenses Forensic DNA experts, Dr. Henry Lee or Dr. Edward Blake, considered their reasonable doubt theory about the blood evidence plausible. Dr. Lee opines that Scheck's claim that "the blood evidence is only as good as the people collecting it" was an obfuscation tactic to conflate the validity of the results with the integrity of the LAPD and then attack the latter because he knew that the defense's Forensic experts had reached the same conclusion as the prosecution: that the mistakes made during evidence collection did not render the results unreliable.[5]

Scheck argued that 100% of the DNA from the evidence samples was lost due to bacterial degradation because the swatches were collected and packaged in plastic bags, not paper bags as recommended, and then stored in a police van without being refrigerated for up to seven hours. The evidence samples were then cross-contaminated with DNA from Simpson, Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman's reference vial being transferred to all but three evidence items. The remaining three exhibits were planted by police and thus fraudulent. Ultimately, Dr. Lee opines that the doubt about the DNA evidence was primarily raised via two claims: contamination and police conspiracy to frame Simpson by planting blood evidence.[6][7]

Dr. Lee writes that, although it is possible for bacteria to degrade all of the DNA, it usually takes longer for that to happen than Scheck was suggesting and the result would be inconclusive. The prosecution also demonstrated that didn't happen because most of the samples were sent directly to the consulting labs and not the LAPD crime lab, were Scheck alleged the evidence was contaminated. Since all of the samples the consulting labs received were testable despite none of those samples having been "contaminated" in the LAPD crime lab, that conclusively disproves Scheck's claim because they should have been inconclusive. Lee writes that this also effectively refutes the contamination claim as well because if the evidence samples were not 100% degraded and were contaminated with Simpson's DNA in the LAPD crime lab, the result would be a mixture of Simpson's DNA and the real killer(s) DNA but the results only showed Simpson's DNA was present.[8]

Scheck made several claims of how contamination occurred in the LAPD crime lab, all of which were misleading or deliberately deceptive. He claimed the bottle of Chelex used for PCR testing could be a source of contamination from repeated use but neglected to mention the bottle is only accessed using sterile instruments making that argument improbable. Scheck also claimed the blood collection tubes being racked "too closely" together could cause cross-contamination but the blood is inside the tubes and likewise only accessed using sterile instruments. Scheck also claimed that contamination could have happened when Yamamuchi placed all of the evidence items on the table together before testing but declined to note they were each in closed coin envelopes at the time. His most egregious allegation was contamination producing a false positive via PCR Amplification carryover. During PCR testing, the blood evidence is taken from the evidence locker room to a different room for PCR extraction. The extraction product is only minuscule amounts of DNA which is then amplified and compared to the reference samples. Scheck implied that the extraction product is taken back to the evidence locker room and was then contaminated with high levels of DNA from Simpson's reference vial which was then amplified and overrode the "real killer(s)" DNA producing a false positive. However, the workflow during PCR testing is one-way-only and the PCR extraction product is never returned to the evidence locker room. The room were Amplification takes place is fifty-feet away from the evidence locker room and in a different building than the Extraction room, making Scheck's claim "ridiculous". Dr. Lee notes that Scheck knew this as well because he toured the lab prior to the trial beginning.[9]

Scheck, initially only planned to argue that three evidence samples were planted but eventually argued that virtually all of it was planted in a police conspiracy to frame Simpson. Scheck claimed that everyone who handled the blood evidence in the case - Thano Peratis,[10] Dennis Fung,[11] Andrea Mazzola,[12] Collin Yamamuchi,[13] Detective Philip Vannatter[14] and Detective Mark Fuhrman,[15] were all a part of the conspiracy and together planted virtually all of the blood evidence in the case against Simpson prior to it reaching the lab. Simpson Prosecutor and DNA expert George "woody' Clarke published Justice and Science: Trials and triumphs of DNA evidence (2009) and wrote that Scheck and Neufeld essentially abandoned their claim the results were not reliable and instead argued it was planted prior to reaching the lab because that way the results would be the same but not incriminating. There were no witnesses to this alleged conspiracy because Scheck and Neufeld accused everybody who handled the DNA evidence of being involved in the conspiracy. The only physical evidence of blood being planted was the argument from the presence of EDTA in two of the 108 DNA evidence samples and that claim was conclusively refuted by the defenses own witness, FBI special agent Roger Martz.[16]

In Bad Blood: Part II, Lee goes through and lists all of the claims that Scheck made and shows how they were either deductively disproven by the prosecution at trial or strained logic. For instance, Scheck claimed the police planted evidence in Simpson's Bronco two separate times with one of those times being months after the murders and claimed the police switched the swatches that contained the "real killer(s)" DNA for swatches that contained Simpson's DNA when they were in the evidence locker room. After the verdict, the jurors received scathing criticism for believing there was reasonable doubt about the DNA evidence while Scheck and Neufeld ironically received praise. Dr. Lee believes the scathing criticism the jury received for believing the arguments they made maybe the reason why Scheck and Neufeld were the only two DNA experts to not return for the wrongful death civil trial to make those claims again.[17]

Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld are the only members of the Dream Team (law) not to mention the Simpson Case in any of their post-trial publications. The two books they published only mention the Innocence Project and neither of them mention any of the claims they made in the Simpson Case.

Innocence ProjectEdit

Scheck presenting Actual Innocence with co-authors Peter Neufeld and Jim Dwyer

Scheck co-founded the Innocence Project in 1992 with Peter Neufeld, also his co-counsel on the O.J. Simpson defense team. The Project is dedicated to the utilization of DNA evidence as a means to exculpate individuals of crimes for which they were wrongfully convicted. To date, 362 wrongful convictions have been overturned by DNA testing thanks to the Project and other legal organizations.[18] The Innocence Project does not use legal technicalities to challenge convictions; the Project accepts only cases in which newly discovered scientific evidence can potentially prove that a convicted person is factually innocent.

Scheck is a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, where he established the first Innocence Project. He is Director of Clinical Education for the Trial Advocacy Program and the Center for the Study of Law and Ethics, and a former staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society of New York. From 2004–2005 he served as president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. In 1996 he received the Robert C. Heeney Award, the "NACDL's most prestigious award... given annually to the one criminal defense attorney who best exemplifies the goals and values of the Association, and the legal profession"[19] They get thousands of letters from wrongly convicted inmates every year.

Selected bibliographyEdit

  • Scheck, Barry, Peter Neufeld, and Jim Dwyer. Actual Innocence. New York: Doubleday, 2000; ISBN 0-385-49341-X.
  • Scheck, Barry, Peter Neufeld, and Taryn Simon. The Innocents. New York: Umbrage Editions in association with The Innocence Project, 2003; ISBN 1-884167-18-7.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Gitschier, Jane (2013). "The Innocence Project at Twenty: An Interview with Barry Scheck". PLoS Genetics. 9 (8): e1003692. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003692. PMC 3738447. PMID 23950733.
  2. ^ Nussbaum, Hedda; Gloria Steinem; Sam Klagsburn (2005). Surviving Intimate Terrorism. Baltimore: PublishAmerica. ISBN 1-4137-5652-2.
  3. ^ "Journey Toward Justice: Dennis Fritz: Books". Retrieved 2015-03-05.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Lee, Henry; Tirnady, Frank (2003-04-17). Blood Evidence: How Dna Is Revolutionizing The Way We Solve Crimes. Basic Books. ISBN 9780786752300.
  6. ^ Lee, Henry; Tirnady, Frank (2003-04-17). Blood Evidence: How Dna Is Revolutionizing The Way We Solve Crimes. Basic Books. ISBN 9780786752300.
  7. ^ Lee, Henry; Tirnady, Frank (2003-04-17). Blood Evidence: How Dna Is Revolutionizing The Way We Solve Crimes. Basic Books. ISBN 9780786752300.
  8. ^ Lee, Henry; Tirnady, Frank (2003-04-17). Blood Evidence: How Dna Is Revolutionizing The Way We Solve Crimes. Basic Books. ISBN 9780786752300.
  9. ^ Lee, Henry; Tirnady, Frank (2003-04-17). Blood Evidence: How Dna Is Revolutionizing The Way We Solve Crimes. Basic Books. ISBN 9780786752300.
  10. ^ "O.J. nurse changes testimony". UPI. Retrieved 2019-11-07.
  11. ^ "COURTTV.COM - TRIALS - O.J. Simpson: Week-by-week". 2007-12-11. Retrieved 2019-11-07.
  12. ^ "COURTTV.COM - TRIALS - O.J. Simpson: Week-by-week". 2007-12-11. Retrieved 2019-11-07.
  13. ^ "COURTTV.COM - TRIALS - O.J. Simpson: Week-by-week". 2007-12-01. Retrieved 2019-11-07.
  14. ^ "COURTTV.COM - TRIALS - O.J. Simpson: Week-by-week". 2007-12-01. Retrieved 2019-11-07.
  15. ^ "COURTTV.COM - TRIALS - O.J. Simpson: Week-by-week". 2007-12-11. Retrieved 2019-11-07.
  16. ^ Clarke, George (2007-11-15). Justice and Science: Trials and Triumphs of DNA Evidence. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 9780813543949.
  17. ^ Lee, Henry; Tirnady, Frank (2003-04-17). Blood Evidence: How Dna Is Revolutionizing The Way We Solve Crimes. Basic Books. ISBN 9780786752300.
  18. ^
  19. ^ NACDL website "Awards" section
  20. ^ "Rob Morrow - IMDB". IMDB. Retrieved June 10, 2017.
  21. ^ "The Good Wife (TV Series) Nine Hours (2010) Full Cast & Crew". IMDb. Retrieved 22 January 2020.
  22. ^ "The Good Wife (TV Series) Everything Is Ending (2013) Full Cast & Crew". IMDb. Retrieved 22 January 2020.

External linksEdit