Update (2/4/20): The Pulaski County Circuit Court approved the agreement to test the DNA and fingerprint evidence on February 4th.
LITTLE ROCK – The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arkansas, and the Innocence Project issued the following statements regarding the Jacksonville City Council’s vote to agree to test evidence that could posthumously exonerate Ledell Lee, who was executed in 2017. New analysis from top forensic experts provides reason to believe Lee may have been executed for a crime he did not commit.
“This lawsuit was always about finding the truth, and we’re glad the Jacksonville City Council has decided to do the right thing and allow this evidence to be tested,” said Holly Dickson, interim executive director and legal director of the ACLU of Arkansas. “While nothing can undo the injustice of Ledell Lee’s execution, tonight’s vote is a positive and long-overdue step that could well identify the real perpetrator of the crime. We thank Jacksonville city leaders for standing on the side of openness and hope to receive the court’s approval. Arkansans deserve the truth.”
On January 23, the ACLU, the Innocence Project, the ACLU of Arkansas, Hogan Lovells US LLP, and Little Rock attorney John Tull filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in state court on behalf of Patricia Young, the sister of Ledell Lee. The lawsuit asked the court to order the city of Jacksonville to release DNA and fingerprints found at the scene of the crime — which do not match Lee’s — so that they can be tested and run through national databases for the first time.
“We are grateful that the Jacksonville City Council tonight voted to do this testing,” said Cassandra Stubbs, director of the ACLU Capital Punishment Project. “This DNA and fingerprint evidence quite possibly holds the key to who killed Debra Reese in 1993. It should have been tested before Ledell was executed. By voting to turn over the evidence for testing now, the Council members have shown that they are earnest in their pursuit of the truth and justice for the citizens of their city. We thank them for their courage.”
Innocence Project Senior Litigation Counsel Nina Morrison stated: “We are grateful that the City of Jacksonville has agreed to release the evidence needed to proceed with critical DNA and fingerprint analysis in the case of Ledell Lee. The search to uncover the truth about Debra Reese’s murder is in the interest of justice for all parties and for the public at large. We look forward to working with the City to conduct this new testing as soon as possible.”