On April 20, 2017 the state of Arkansas executed Ledell Lee, a 51-year-old Blytheville native was convicted of the murder of his neighbor Debra Reese in 1995. Lee, 30 years old at the time, maintained his innocence until his death. On Friday, new DNA evidence found on the murder weapon and a bloody shirt, surfaced via the Innocence Project and ACLU that revealed an unknown man’s genetic material and fingerprints.
“While the results obtained 29 years after the evidence was collected proved to be incomplete and partial,” said Innocence Project litigation counsel Nina Morrison in a statement, “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.”
The DNA and fingerprint profiles have been entered into a national database, but no matches have been reported. ACLU and the Innocence Project requested new DNA testing in the case in January 2020.
“I immediately thought this is something we needed to determine and establish before we executed back in 2017,” said local attorney Furonda Brasfield. “We begged the Attorney General not to ask the Governor for [execution] dates to be set. Before you execute someone make sure you examine all of the evidence carefully, especially DNA evidence because we know now that the DNA evidence can be compelling and definitive to say one way or the other.”
“We are hopeful that one or more of these forensic law enforcement databases will generate additional information in the future,” Morrison continued.