Four years after the execution of Arkansas death row inmate Ledell Lee, lawyers working for his family claim they discovered new DNA profiles belonging to someone else.
The DNA was found on the handle of a bloody club used in the 1993 murder of Debra Reese, according to the Washington Post. The proof belongs to an unknown man.
Lee was sentenced to death in Pulaski County, Arkansas, in October 1995 after being convicted of the murder of 26-year-old Reese. He maintained his innocence from the time of his arrest until his execution in April 2017.
His death marked the state’s first execution since 2005.
Attorney Nina Morrison of the Innocence Project told The Post that the newly discovered DNA results “were shown to be incomplete and partial,” but that they are significant and leave the door open to further insight.
Lee’s sister Patricia Young said in a statement to the point of sale: “We are pleased that there is new evidence in the national DNA database and we continue to hope that more information will be uncovered in the future.”
Morrison didn’t immediately return a request for comment on Saturday.
Governor Asa Hutchinson defended the execution at a news conference earlier this week.
“Whenever you make difficult decisions, or whenever you have to make a jury’s decision, you’ve found it has been reviewed by the Supreme Court at all levels. You uphold beliefs and it is my duty to carry out the law,” he said on Tuesday . “The evidence that has apparently been exposed is inconclusive and the fact is that the jury found him guilty based on the information they had.”
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Innocence Project, which represent Lee’s sister, filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act last year. The lawsuit asked the court to order the city of Jacksonville, Arkansas, to release DNA and fingerprints from the scene that the organizations said were inconsistent with Lee’s.
The ACLU and Innocence project wanted to test the DNA and fingerprints and run them through national databases, which had not been done before.
In a January 2020 press release, the ACLU said it had “identified serious deficiencies in the evidence used to convict Lee” and “identified DNA evidence likely to belong to the killer.”
Young said in the press release that her brother was with her on the day of the murder.
“What happened to Debra Reese is terrible and we keep her family in our prayers. But I was with Ledell the day that murder happened and I don’t see how he could have done that, “she said.” If Ledell is innocent, the person who did this was never caught. We just want to finally know the truth. “
According to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, a neighbor testified that he saw Lee enter and leave Reese’s home on the day of the murder. Another neighbor said Lee came to his door once and asked for tools.
Prosecutors suggested that this was Lee’s tactic in finding women home alone, the outlet reported. Authorities also said a shoe print and human blood were found in Lee’s sneakers.
However, the lawsuit stated that “no physical evidence directly linked Lee to Reese’s murder,” and the state condemned him by “grossly overestimating” the nature and importance of “forensic testing,” some of which some found inconclusive were.
The lawsuit also indicated that Lee’s first trial resulted in a hanging jury. He was found guilty in the second trial.