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DNA Will Prove If State Executed an Innocent Man

Ledell Lee maintained his innocence until he was put to death in 2017
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 6, 2020 2:48 PM CST
In this Tuesday, April 18, 2017 file photo, Ledell Lee appears in Pulaski County Circuit Court for a hearing in which lawyers argued to stop his execution.   (Benjamin Krain/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP, File)

(Newser) – Ledell Lee was executed in Arkansas in 2017, despite legal challenges requesting more DNA testing using modern technology; the state denied those requests. Lee never stopped insisting he was innocent of the 1993 murder of Debra Reese, and now Slate reports that his case "could result in DNA evidence for the first time proving that a state has wrongfully executed an innocent man." That's because the ACLU and the Innocence Project sued for permission to test crime scene evidence last week, and though the city of Jacksonville, Arkansas, initially opposed the idea, on Friday it relented, 5 News reports. Lee's family will pay for the testing, but the city itself will order it. A court signed off on the new testing Wednesday, the Arkansas Times reports. The suit claims Lee was likely innocent, CNN reported last month.

The suit called for Jacksonville to release DNA samples and other evidence from the crime scene so they can be run through national databases, which the city did not want to do. By ordering the testing itself, all the city will need to do is release the results. Descriptions from neighbors who claimed to have seen Lee around the crime scene contained "notable inconsistencies," forensic experts who have reviewed the case say evidence was "misinterpreted" at trial, Lee's post-conviction counsel has admitted he was dealing with substance abuse while representing Lee and thus did not have the resources he needed, shoes and clothing at the scene did not match Lee, and "no physical evidence directly tied Mr. Lee to the murder," the lawsuit says. Says Lee's sister in a statement, "I was with Ledell the day this murder happened, and I do not see how he could have done this." (Read more execution stories.)

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