DNA Evidence Of Another Man Found Four Years After Ledell Lee’s Execution

Ledell Lee was executed in 2017 for the murder of his neighbor in the 1990s, four years later, DNA evidence points to someone else. The state of Arkansas moved forward with the execution even though lawyers called for DNA testing on the murder weapon. 

“No one should be executed when there is a possibility that person is innocent,” attorney Nina Morrison of the Innocence Project said in April 2017, following Lee’s execution, as reported by The Washington Post. Lee was the first person to be executed by the state of Arkansas in over 10 years. 

What’s more is that the state received national backlash after they sped through capital cases before the drugs used in executions expired. 

Lee’s family, along with the Innocence Project, and the American Civil Liberties Union pushed for DNA testing in order to exonerate Lee after his execution. 

Lawyers filed a lawsuit against the city of Jacksonville, Arkansas who said new DNA testing found genetic material from an unknown man on the club used to kill Debra Reese in 1993. Morrison said the results of the new testing “proved to be incomplete and partial,” but that they offer an opportunity for more findings to come forward in the case that relied heavily on eyewitness testimony. 

Lee’s sister, Patricia Young, said in a statement the family is “glad there is new evidence in the national DNA database and remain hopeful that there will be further information uncovered in the future.” 

On Tuesday (May 4), Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson defended the execution of Ledell Lee at a news conference, calling the new DNA evidence “inconclusive” and that “the jury found him guilty based upon the information that they had.” 

“Whenever you make tough decisions, whenever you have to carry out the decision of a jury, you realize that it’s been reviewed by the Supreme Court at every level,” the governor who scheduled and signed off on seven executions in 11 days in 2017 said. “They affirm the convictions, and it’s my duty to carry out the law.” 

According to reports, after Lee was arrested for the Reese’s murder, police connected him to four other crimes with DNA evidence, including three sexual assaults and one homicide. The homicide and one of the assault cases were later dropped, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported

The prosecutor in the case, now judge, Holly Lodge Meyer, previously told the newspaper that Lee was deserving of the death penalty, calling him a “serial rapist and a killer.” 

“I think what makes Ledell Lee particularly deserving –– and no other penalty but the death penalty would be proportional to the crimes that he has committed –– would be this pattern of being a serial rapist and a killer,” Meyer previously said.

DNA testing done on hair fragments at the scene at the time of the murder couldn't rule Lee out as the source. However, lawyers representing Lee's sister said the type of DNA material analyzed "may be shared by thousands of individuals in a given population."

Photo: Getty Images

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