LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Attorneys for the family of Ledell Lee are requesting new DNA testing nearly three years after he was executed by the state of Arkansas in 2017.
The Innocence Project along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Arkansas, the law firm of Hogan Lovells US LLP, and Little Rock attorney John Tull held a press conference Thursday after a petition was filed to asked for new testing.
Lee, who was executed for the 1993 murder of Debra Reese, maintained his innocence until his execution.
You can watch the press conference on our YouTube channel:
The ACLU and Innocence Project joined his case days before he was executed by Arkansas, but were unable to get new testing before his scheduled execution.
The groups at that time identified "serious flaws in the evidence used to convict Lee" and DNA evidence that reportedly belonged to the killer, but was never tested with modern technology.
According to court documents filed Thursday, attorneys for Lee's family say "no physical evidence directly tied Mr. Lee to the murder of Ms. Reese."
The lawyers say that crime scene evidence shows that "whoever killed Ms. Reese was not wearing Ledell Lee's shoes or clothing." They also say that the shoe pattern on Reese's cheek do not match the pattern of Lee's shoes.
Reese was sexually assaulted and murdered in her own home on the morning of February 9, 1993. Police say she was approximately hit "36 times with a tire thumper."
Lee was arrested about an hour after the murder after witnesses claimed they saw him walking down the street. He was arrested at his mother's house and Lee's brother told police that the two went to make a payment at a Rent-A-Center store "shortly before noon."
Before his execution, Lee's attorneys wanted to test what appeared to be a drop of blood on Lee's shoe and hairs found at the scene of the crime.
The courts refused to allow DNA testing before Lee's execution.
During an interview with a BBC journalist the day before his execution, Lee said that although he couldn't stop his execution, he said his "dying words will always be, as it has been: 'I am an innocent man.'"
Now, lawyers for Lee's family wants the release of DNA and fingerprint evidence for new testing. The Innocence Project has offered to "bear all costs" for new testing.
In response to the lawsuit, the City of Jacksonville's city attorney Stephanie Friedman said that the city is "prevented from releasing DNA physical evidence" according to state law.
"Lee's DNA physical evidence is not a public record and is not open to public inspection," Friedman said. "Additionally, should the City release this evidence, there is the possibility that the evidence would be destroyed, further violating evidence retention laws."
In April 2017, Arkansas executed four inmates and the four other executions were halted by different court rulings.
Arkansas's supply of midazolam was set to expire at the end of April 2017.
If the new testing is granted and concludes that Lee was not responsible for Reese's murder, it would be the first time an innocent man was executed under Arkansans's contemporary death penalty.
Lee was the first inmate executed in Arkansas since 2005.