After Ledell Lee’s Execution, Lawyers Say Murder Weapon DNA Could Belong To Someone Else

“My dying words will always be, as it has been, ‘I am an innocent man,’” Ledell Lee said before he was put to death.

May 26, 2021
Ledell Lee [via ACLU Arkansas]

Ledell Lee [via ACLU Arkansas]

Ledell Lee [via ACLU Arkansas]

By: Aaron Rasmussen

New DNA evidence in the case of a man put to death in Arkansas several years ago could bolster his claims he was not guilty of murder.

On April 20, 2017, Ledell Lee was executed by lethal injection at age 51 for the 1993 killing of Debra Reese. The 26-year-old victim was found strangled and bludgeoned to death at her home in Jacksonville, Arkansas.

“My dying words will always be, as it has been, ‘I am an innocent man,’” Lee told the BBC shortly before his execution.

Since his death, Patricia Young has been determined to clear her brother’s name.

In January 2020, Young filed a lawsuit against the city of Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Police Department seeking the release of physical evidence related to the crime so it could be submitted for DNA testing and fingerprint analysis.

According to the lawsuit, the state of Arkansas “convicted Mr. Lee by vastly overstating the nature and significance of the limited forensic testing conducted at that time, including tests that its own experts admitted were ultimately ‘inconclusive.’”

The suit also claimed Lee had a solid alibi and prosecutors “relied heavily on alleged identifications of Mr. Lee by neighborhood eyewitnesses, even though that testimony contained notable inconsistencies in the witnesses’ descriptions of the perpetrator.”

In court documents, Young argued the racially-charged atmosphere at the time her brother was found guilty at his second trial — the first resulted in a hung jury — also may have contributed to his conviction.

“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,” which concluded a week before Lee’s second trial started, the lawsuit states. “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.”

In response, The New York Times reported, Jacksonville city officials released previously untested evidence, including a blood-covered wooden club and white shirt recovered from the crime scene.

Lawyers with the Innocence Project and the American Civil Liberties Union recently said tests show genetic material found on the murder weapon belongs to a male — but not Lee — and the results have now been submitted to a criminal database.

Governor Asa Hutchinson defended Lee’s execution, saying it was his “duty to carry out the law” in Arkansas and calling new DNA evidence recovered from the weapon “inconclusive,” according to The New York Times.

However, Lee’s sister remains optimistic, writing in a statement: “We are glad there is new evidence in the national DNA database and remain hopeful that there will be further information uncovered in the future.”

Next Up

Fugitive Allegedly Kills Wife After Meeting Through Prison Pen Pal Program

The Phoenix Police created an age enhanced photo of what William "Bubba" Plemons may look like today. If you have any information on this ex-convict, career criminal, please contact our hotline directly. You can always remain anonymous and you can text information 24/7: 833-378-7783 (3-PURSUE).

US Marshals Top 15 Most Wanted On The Run After Allegedly Killing Attorney In Illinois

John Panaligan stands 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighed 150 pounds when he vanished. Panaligan is a US Marshals Top 15 Most Wanted. He has close ties to Colorado, Illinois and Arizona. If you know where he's hiding out, please call our hotline. Host John Walsh guarantees you can remain anonymous: 833-378-7783 (3-PURSUE).

Darryl Walker On the Run After Allegedly Murdering Cancer Survivor and Setting Her House On Fire

If you have any information on Darryl Walker please contact our hotline directly. You can always remain anonymous and you can text information 24/7: 833-378-7783 (3-PURSUE).

5 Key Facts About The Jessica Chambers Murder Case

Jessica Chambers suffered an agonizing death: Firefighters saw her walking toward them, wearing only her underwear & burned over 93 percent of her body.

LAPD Searching For Hit-And-Run Driver Who Killed Popular Podcast Host

Mathew George was “a very loving, kind, unbelievably funny, and gentle soul,” says his mother.

Texas Woman Wanted For Hiring A Hitman To Kill Husband

Margaret Lorrain Smith stands 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighed 185 pounds when she vanished. She has a mole on the right side of her hairline and a small mole under her right eye. She's currently on the Texas Department of Public Safety's Top 10 Most Wanted for capital murder. If you know where she's hiding out, please call our hotline. Host John Walsh guarantees you can remain anonymous: 833-378-7783 (3-PURSUE).

UPDATE: Fugitive Leticia Smith from ‘In Pursuit With John Walsh’ Captured In Mexico

Authorities confirm former fugitive, Leticia Smith was extradited from Mexico to California. Smith will face charges for allegedly killing her husband, Antione Smith.

Fugitive Erik Arceneaux Is Wanted For Murder Of Girlfriend In Houston, TX

Erik Arceneaux speaks English and Spanish and has close ties to Louisiana. If you know where he’s hiding, text our hotline 24/7: 833-78-7783 (3-PURSUE).

Father Murdered Over A Mercedes Three Days Before Christmas

Nalio Williams has been on the run since 2011. He has used the name Mark Peter Crompton previously and stands 6 feet 1 inches tall. If you have any information, host John Walsh guarantees you can remain anonymous. Please call or text: 833-378-7783 (3-PURSUE).

Carlos Torres Wanted For Allegedly Killing Girlfriend, On The Run Since 2014

Investigators say Carlos Torres is a skilled electrician with a tribal tattoo on his right shoulder. Torres is charged with murder and has been on the run from Houston, TX since 2014. Have you seen him? Please call or text: 833-378-7783 (3-PURSUE).