AR Supreme Court denies stay for Ledell Lee, inmate files civil rights lawsuit

Ledell Lee, scheduled to be put to death on April 20th, now has his execution in limbo due to a temporary restraining order on the use vecuronium bromideof and a court filing by the ACLU. (Photo: KATV)

The Arkansas Supreme Court has denied death row inmate Ledell Lee’s motions to stay his execution, with the inmate filing a civil rights lawsuit in response to the court's decision.

The state's highest court denied motions that further DNA testing was needed in Lee's case and that he had ineffective counsel.

Lee then filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court to allow time for DNA testing that his attorneys say could prove his innocence.

Lee, who is represented by the Innocence Project and ACLU, is scheduled to be executed Thursday night.

The only thing that was preventing the state from going ahead with the execution was a judge's temporary restraining order blocking the use of one of the drugs in the state's lethal injection protocol. However, late Thursday afternoon, the Arkansas Supreme Court granted the attorney general's request for an emergency stay on that injunction, clearing the state to use the drugs for execution.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed the response below in reference to Lee's new case in federal court.


Ledell Lee's execution is on hold due to a temporary restraining order on the state's use of vecuronium bromide, the ACLU is stepping in asking for a full stay of execution.

Lee was sentenced to death in 1995 after being convicted of killing 26-year-old Debra Reese in her Jacksonville home in 1993. Before strangling her, Lee beat her with a tire iron 36 times.

Reese wasn't Lee's only victim. There were four others. All four women were raped and beaten within a couple of miles of each other in the Sunnyside neighborhood.

Lee maintains his innocence in all cases, but was a no-show at his own clemency hearing in March. Reese’s son, Joseph Lucky, was there.

“Ledell Lee showed no leniency to any of the victims he encountered,” said Lucky. “He is the embodiment of the kind of evil that should never exist in this world."

Lucky remembers the day his mother was murdered and asked the board to follow through with Lee's execution.

"And my family has lived in the shadow of this event our entire lives, and I'm asking you and begging you to please let us have some closure,” said Lucky. “Let this end, let us step out from this shadow."

The board denied clemency for Lee, because of the nature of the crime and the fact that lee had multiple victims.

Then on Tuesday, Lee did show up in the Pulaski County courthouse to ask that DNA in his case be tested.

His attorney, Lee Short, requested DNA testing on hair found in Reese's house and blood found on Lee's shoe.

"We expect it's not going to come back as his hair, and it's a decent possibility that it comes back to someone who has prior convictions for these types of convictions for these types of convictions,” said Short. “And if that happens, that could go a long way towards an innocence claim."

Lee's attorney also claims that he's had ineffective counsel throughout his trials, but ultimately the request for DNA testing was denied.

On Wednesday, attorneys with the Innocence Project filed a request, seeking the DNA testing that a judge denied Lee on Tuesday.

The Innocence Project issued this statement which read, in part:

“As in Johnson's case, the Innocence Project and our co-counsel at the ACLU filed a request with the Arkansas Supreme Court this morning on behalf of our client Ledell Lee seeking DNA testing, which is still pending. Mr. Lee is scheduled to be executed tomorrow evening unless the Arkansas court grants the stay. As we argued in our brief, there is a significant amount of DNA evidence that has never been tested which could exonerate Mr. Lee and identify the real perpetrator of the crime.

Because he, like Stacey Johnson, has never gotten a hearing on his DNA petition, and has maintained his innocence for over two decades, we are hopeful that the Arkansas Supreme Court will also grant him a stay and give him a hearing on the DNA evidence.”

As of late Wednesday night, Lee's attorneys tell Channel 7 they still have not received a decision.

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