Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Innocence Project joins ACLU in requesting stay from state Supreme Court for Ledell Lee

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 10:48 AM

click to enlarge Ledell Lee, leaving court after Tuesday's hearing. - DAVID KOON
  • David Koon
  • Ledell Lee, leaving court after Tuesday's hearing.

Ledell Lee, scheduled to be executed Thursday night, has asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to stay the execution to allow time to do new DNA evidence that attorneys say could prove his innocence. Attorneys from the ACLU Capital Punishment Project and the Innocence Project joined North Little Rock lawyer Lee Short in the appeal.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Herbert Wright denied Lee's petition yesterday.


From John Lynch's account in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:

Holly Lodge Meyer, the prosecuting attorney who tried Lee's capital case for the 1993 slaying of 26-year-old Debra Reese in her Jacksonville home, said she was surprised to hear of the involvement of the ACLU and the Innocence Project.

"This is the first I've ever heard of him claiming actual innocence, " Lodge Meyer said. "It's news to me."

The current chief deputy prosecutor in Pulaski County, John Johnson, had similar remarks Tuesday, asking Wright to reject Lee's request because the defendant has skipped numerous opportunities to seek the tests in the 22 years since he was convicted.

"He has waited until the eve of the end of his life to make this claim," Johnson said.

Even if the testing showed what Lee claimed, those results would still not be enough to prove Lee was not the man who killed Reese, the prosecutor said. Police linked him to the killing through three witnesses who put him at either Reese's home or in her neighborhood before she was killed.

The mother of one was killed in her Jacksonville home by an assailant who choked her and bludgeoned her 36 times with a tire tool her husband had given her to protect herself. Lee was arrested within an hour of her murder, shortly after he spent a $100 bill that police said appeared to be one of five her father had recently given her.
Here is the motion to stay from Lee's attorneys.

From an Innocence Project news release:
(Little Rock, AR – April 19, 2017) This morning, attorneys for Ledell Lee asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to stay his execution to allow time for DNA testing that could prove his innocence. Lee, who is represented by attorneys from the Innocence Project and the ACLU, is scheduled for execution on Thursday, April 20, 2017.

“Mr. Lee has consistently maintained his innocence, and yet the state is rushing to put him to death without giving him the opportunity to do the DNA testing that could prove who actually committed the crime,” said Nina Morrison, a senior staff attorney with the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law. “All we are asking is that the Arkansas Supreme Court issue a stay of execution so that Mr. Lee is given the opportunity to do the testing that could spare his life.”

Lee has always maintained his innocence of the 1993 murder and sexual assault of Debra Reese. Numerous unknown fingerprints were found at the crime scene, yet none were from Lee.

At trial, the prosecution claimed that two small spots of “human blood” on shoes recovered by the police from Lee were likely the victim’s blood. Yet despite the extremely bloody nature of the crime, no other blood was found anywhere on Lee’s shoes, or any of his clothing. Newly available DNA testing could prove whether the spots were in fact victim’s blood.

Attorneys are also seeking to test hairs of purported African-American origin that were recovered at the scene. At trial, the state argued that the hairs came from the perpetrator, after witnesses reported seeing a lone black male enter and exit the home of the victim, who was white. The state’s experts claimed that the hairs were “consistent” with Lee’s based on microscopic examination – a forensic method that has since been discredited.

DNA testing could prove not only if the hairs came from Lee, but a DNA profile could also be identified from the hairs that could help determine who really committed the crime – including comparing it to the DNA of millions of other convicted felons in the national DNA databank. DNA testing and databank searches were not available at Lee’s trial, but are standard law enforcement practice in 2017.

The other main evidence in the case was the testimony of three eyewitnesses who identified Lee as a man they saw in the area. The nation’s 349 DNA exonerations have proven that eyewitness identifications are unreliable. Eyewitness misidentification was a contributing factor in 71 percent of the 349 DNA exonerations, and 32 percent of the DNA exonerations involved multiple misidentifications.

The criminal justice system has completely failed Lee since he was arrested for the crime. Lee was tried by a judge who concealed that he was having an affair with the assistant prosecutor on the case, whom he later married. Lee’s first state post-conviction counsel introduced the evidence of the affair by calling the judge’s ex-wife, who testified about the affair after opposing the subpoena. Lee’s lawyer, however, was so intoxicated at the hearing that the prosecution asked for him to be drug tested after he slurred, stumbled, and made incoherent arguments.

Lee has fetal alcohol syndrome disorder, significant brain damage and significant intellectual disability – important defenses to the death penalty that his lawyers failed to litigate.

Lee won new proceedings because of the lawyer’s drunkenness, and his representation did not improve after that attorney was dismissed. His next lawyers failed to introduce evidence of the affair, giving up one of many of Lee’s important arguments, and never pursued his innocence or intellectual disability claims. Nor did they ever ask the court to order DNA testing.

Lee was just last week appointed new counsel from the ACLU, which asked the Innocence Project to assist in representing Lee for the purposes of seeking DNA testing. The Innocence Project has presented the Arkansas courts with an affidavit from a nationally recognized DNA expert explaining the scientific tests that could now exonerate Lee before his execution.

Tags: , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Lindsey Millar

  • Tuesday line

    Here you go.
    • Apr 25, 2017
  • Supreme Court hears arguments in case that led to stays for two Arkansas death row inmates

    The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in an appeal yesterday that asks the court to rule that indigent criminal defendants are entitled to an independent expert witness. The case, McWilliams v. Dunn, goes back to the 1984 capital murder conviction of James McWilliams, who raped and murdered a woman in Tuscaloosa, Ala., during a robbery. But the high court's decision will also directly affect the fates of Don Davis and Bruce Ward, Arkansas death row prisoners who were slated to die this month, but given a reprieve by the Arkansas Supreme Court, which issued a stay in each execution, pending the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in McWilliams in June.
    • Apr 25, 2017
  • The Jack Jones, Marcel Williams execution thread

    The Arkansas Department of Correction is planning for the first double execution in the U.S. in 16 years tonight. Jack Jones, 52,  and Marcell Williams, 46, are scheduled to die by lethal injection. They would be the second and third prisoners put to death as part of a hurried schedule Governor Hutchinson set in advance of the state's supply of one of the three drugs used in the execution protocol expiring on April 30.
    • Apr 24, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • State Police issues statement on Jason Rapert 'threats'

    The State Police have issued a minor clarification in what appears to be an effort to soothe an enraged Sen. Jason Rapert, exposed here as overly excited about both a Conway parking lot question from a constituent as well as some inflammatory Internet rhetoric that he's interpreted as a dire threat on his life. State cops took his reports seriously, they say. But in the end, they found nothing actionable.
    • Sep 15, 2015
  • Tom Cotton suggests Dick Cheney as House speaker

    Yes. U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton told Politico he'd like to see Dick Cheny as House speaker.
    • Oct 12, 2015
  • 'How to decimate a city' — a big freeway

    Reporting from around the U.S. continues to illustrate the folly of the Arkansas highway department and construction boosters like the chamber of commerce and Vice Mayor Lance Hines in advocating ever wider freeways through the heart of Little Rock. Syracuse, N.Y., is looking for a better way in a debate remarkably similar to the debate about widening Interstate 30 in Little Rock.
    • Nov 20, 2015

Most Shared

  • Former state board of education chair Sam Ledbetter weighs in on Little Rock millage vote

    Ledbetter, the former state Board of Education chair who cast the decisive vote in 2015 to take over the LRSD, writes that Education Commissioner Johnny Key "has shown time and again that he is out of touch with our community and the needs of the district." However, Ledbetter supports the May 9 vote as a positive for the district's students and staff.

Visit Arkansas

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Chuck Haralson and Ken Smith were inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame during the 43rd annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Most Viewed

  • Griffen asks probe of Ark. Supreme Court and AG's office conduct

    At a press conference today at the Doubletree Hotel just across from the Pulaski County Courthouse, Pulaski County Fifth Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen and his attorneys announced that he has asked the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission to investigate the conduct of the entire Arkansas Supreme Court, and asked the director of the Arkansas Committee on Professional Conduct to investigate the conduct of Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and several others in the AG's office, related to what Griffen and his attorneys claim were forbidden ex parte conversations between the Supreme Court and the AG's office.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Wednesday's open line

    • Your Norma's sure her Razorbabies have noticed - as has she - that some of…

    • on April 27, 2017
  • Re: Casino gambling continues to grow in Arkansas

    • Nice article about Casino.Is there any Paypal casino games ?

    • on April 27, 2017
  • Re: Wednesday's open line

    • OHMAGOD! mag and I saw 50 years into the future of Trumpmerica tonight when we…

    • on April 27, 2017

Blogroll

Slideshows

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation