JACKSONVILLE, Ark. -- A central Arkansas city council voted Friday to allow new tests on fingerprints and DNA evidence relating to the case of a man the state put to death in 2017.
The Jacksonville City Council voted to allow the tests that Ledell Lee's family contends could exonerate Lee of the 1993 slaying of Debra Reese.
Patricia Young, Lee's sister, had sued the city to allow the new tests. Representing the family were the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arkansas and the Innocence Project.
The groups said they plan to have the DNA evidence tested at a nationally accredited laboratory at Young's expense and to upload the fingerprints to a national database.
Lee was the first of four inmates Arkansas executed in April 2017 before its supply of a lethal injection drug expired. The state had originally planned to execute eight inmates, but four were spared by court rulings.
The groups submitted affidavits from forensic experts questioning other evidence that was used to convict Lee, including claims that partial shoe prints found at the scene of Reese's murder matched Lee's shoe size.
Twenty-one death row inmates have been exonerated since the early 1990s through DNA evidence. If Lee is ultimately cleared, he could be the first person who has been executed to later be proven innocent with DNA and fingerprint evidence, the Innocence Project said.
“This lawsuit was always about finding the truth, and we're glad the Jacksonville City Council has decided to do the right thing nd allow this evidence to be tested,” said Holly Dickson, legal director and interim executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas. “While nothing can undo the injustice of Ledell Lee's execution, tonight's vote is is a positive and long-overdue step that could well identify the real perpetrator of the crime.”