A Black man was executed in Lincoln County, Arkansas, in 2017 despite the fact he maintained his innocence the whole time.
The Innocence Project and ACLU argued that there was “DNA evidence that likely belonged to the killer and had never been tested with modern technology.”
According to PEOPLE, Ledell Lee was arrested and convicted in the 1993 murder of Debra Reese, 26, who was found dead inside her home. She had been strangled and beaten to death.
Neighbors told police that they saw Lee going in and out of Reese’s home.
It’s been four years since Lee was executed, and now an attorney with the Innocence Project says DNA testing from the murder weapon indicates someone other than Lee committed the crime.
“While the results obtained 29 years after the evidence was collected proved to be incomplete and partial, it is notable that there are now new DNA profiles that were not available during the trial or post-conviction proceedings in Mr. Lee’s case,” said Nina Morrison, senior litigation counsel at the Innocence Project, in a statement obtained by The Washington Post.
Lee’s first trial ended in a hung jury. He was later tried again and found guilty. He was sentenced to death in 1995.
In an attempt to overturn his execution, the Innocence Project and ACLU came forward with flaws they found in the evidence used against Lee, which included “DNA evidence that likely belonged to the killer and had never been tested with modern technology.”
“The courts refused to hear any new evidence or allow DNA testing before executing Lee, who was one of eight people scheduled for execution in rapid succession because of the state’s expiring supply of execution drugs,” the release stated.
Earlier this week, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson stated that it was his job to carry out the law following the jury’s guilty verdict that was based upon the information that they had, the governor said during a press conference.
The state’s attorney general, Leslie Rutledge, also stood behind the state’s decision to execute Lee.
“The courts consistently rejected Ledell Lee’s frivolous claims because the evidence demonstrated beyond any shadow of a doubt that he murdered Debra Reese by beating her to death inside her home with a tire thumper,” she said in a statement obtained by the Democrat-Gazette. “I am prayerful that Debra’s family has had closure following his lawful execution in 2017.”
However, Lee’s sister vows to one day exonerate her brother and claims the day Reese was killed. He was with her.
“My family has been unable to rest … knowing that my brother was murdered by the state of Arkansas for a crime we believe he did not commit,” said Lee’s sister Patricia Young following his execution in a statement on the ACLU’s site. “What happened to Debra Reese is horrible, and we keep her family in our prayers. But I was with Ledell the day this murder happened, and I do not see how he could have done this. If Ledell is innocent, then the person who did this has never been caught. All we want is to finally learn the truth.”