4 Years After His Execution, New Evidence Raises Doubt

Profile of unknown male found at murder scene in Ledell Lee case
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 4, 2021 1:50 PM CDT
4 Years After His Execution, New Evidence Raises Doubt
In this 2017 photo, Ledell Lee appears in Pulaski County Circuit Court in Arkansas.   (Benjamin Krain/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP, File)

Ledell Lee maintained his innocence even up to the day of his execution in Arkansas in 2017. Now, new tests on DNA evidence from the 1993 murder scene lends support to those still trying to clear his name, reports Complex:

  • The tests turned up the profile of an unknown male on a wooden club and a bloody shirt wrapped around it, per the AP. Both were found in the home of Debra Reese, who was beaten to death.
  • The DNA tests also found five unidentified fingerprints, and neither the prints nor the DNA profile have turned up a match in national databases.
  • Five of six hairs found at the scene did not belong to Lee, though he couldn't be ruled out as a "potential source" of the sixth, per THV11. Likewise, the tests could not rule out the possibility that blood on Lee's shoe belonged to Reese.

All in all, the results "clearly cast doubt on Lee's guilt," writes Brenton Blanchet at Complex. The ACLU and the Innocence Project had pushed for the new tests, and the groups characterize the results as "incomplete and partial" but say they keep hope alive, notes Arkansas Online. "It is notable that there are now new DNA profiles that were not available during the trial and post-conviction proceedings in Mr. Lee’s case," says Nina Morrison of the Innocence Project. "We are hopeful that one or more of these forensic law enforcement databases will generate additional information in the future." Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, however, says nothing has changed. "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." (Read more capital punishment stories.)

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