By Coco Wang
Officials in Jacksonville, Arkansas, agreed to the DNA and fingerprint testing for Ledell Lee’s case after the Innocence Project, the ACLU, the law firm Hogan Lovells US LLP, and Little Rock attorney John Tull filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit on January 23.
After serving 24 years in prison, Ledell Lee was executed on April 20, 2017, for the murder of Debra Reese in 1993, to which he maintained his innocence until his execution.
Prior to Lee’s execution, the court denied new evidence and refused DNA testing, although the ACLU and the Innocence Project have identified DNA evidence that was unexamined by modern technology and possibly belonged to the killer of Debra Reese.
According to the Innocence Project, they identified DNA evidence including hair recovered from the murder scene, scrapings from the victim’s fingernails, and fingerprints from the murder scene.
The ACLU and the Innocence Project investigated the forensic evidence as well as the eyewitness testimony for over two years after Ledell Lee’s execution and have gathered affidavits from nation’s leading forensic experts that indicate a high possibility of Ledell Lee’s innocence.
The affidavit from Dr. Michael Baden, a nationally renowned forensic pathologist who had also investigated Jeffrey Epstein’s death, claimed that the state misinterpreted the injuries and cause of death of Debra Reese. As opposed to the prosecutor’s argument of the origin of the scrape on Debra Reese’s face, it came from a shoe rather than a rug.
A footwear examination expert, Alicia Wilcox, indicated serious flaws in the testimony regarding the two shoe prints from the crime scene that shared the same size as Lee’s shoes.
Cassandra Stubbs, Director of the ACLU Capital Punishment Project, commented on the conventionality of false convictions when black defendants are pressured to be convicted when a white person is killed and stated that Ledell Lee “should never have been executed under these circumstances.”
Ledell Lee’s sister claimed that her entire family believed in Ledell Lee’s innocence, as she was with him on the day of the murder.
In the first trial for Ledell Lee, the defense introduced numerous alibi witnesses and the trial reached a hung jury. Yet the defense did not call any alibi witnesses for the second trial and Lee was convicted and received a death sentence.
As the city of Jacksonville agreed to release the evidence for DNA testing, we are one step closer to the reveal of the truth on Debra Reese’s murder and Ledell Lee’s case.