For 22 years, Ledell Lee maintained that he was wrongfully convicted in the murder of 26-year-old Debra Reese.
The day before he was executed in Arkansas by lethal injection, on April 20, 2017, he told the BBC:
My dying words will always be, as it has been, ‘I am an innocent man.’
Four years after his execution, the Innocence Project and the American Civil Liberties Union attorneys say DNA testing revealed another man’s genetic material on the murder weapon.
Here’s the kicker – the murder weapon was never previously tested for DNA.
Both the Innocence Project and the A.C.L.U. pushed to have additional DNA testing done on the wooden club all the way up to the eve of Lee’s execution.
The request was denied and a federal judge rejected Ledell Lee’s request for a stay of execution.
Lee’s sister, Patricia Young, has been fighting the good fight to prove her brother did not strangle and fatally bludgeon Debra Reese in Jacksonville, Arkansas in 1993.
Patricia filed a lawsuit in January forcing the authorities to release evidence connected to the case.
In her lawsuit, she also claimed the O.J. Simpson verdict had a huge impact on her brother’s second trial (the first was a hung jury).
Mr. Lee, a Black man charged with the vicious beating and murder of a white woman in her home, was tried under the shadow of the O.J. Simpson prosecution and trial. The Simpson verdict shocked and angered many white Americans and polarized the nation along racial lines. It’s difficult to imagine that any jury could be truly objective in considering the evidence against Mr. Lee at that particular moment in time.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she is not swayed by the new developments.
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. I am prayerful that Debra’s family has had closure following his lawful execution in 2017.
Unmoved by an innocent Black man being executed for a murder he did not commit?
Lord. Have. Mercy.
Visit the NY Times to read more on this case.