I am speechless. I’ve worked on two death penalty appeals, and have supported the Innocence Project since its inception and the Southern Poverty Law Center for more than 25 years. Though I support their work, I often do not read about it because…I can’t take it. Hearing of this kind of injustice never gets any better.
As scary as it sounds, Arkansas has been racing to execute eight people on death row before the state’s supply of lethal injection drug expires at the end of the month.
Ten days ago, we were brought on to do everything possible to stop the execution of two of the eight men, Ledell Lee and Stacey Johnson. Both men had been proclaiming their innocence for more than twenty years, but a lawyer never asked for a court to order DNA testing to prove it. Last night, Mr. Johnson was granted a stay of execution and chance for DNA testing. But the courts denied that same chance to Mr. Lee, and he was executed just before midnight.
Mr. Lee, who suffered from fetal alcohol disorder and intellectual disability, never received the legal representation he deserved in fighting his murder conviction. The judge who tried him concealed having an affair with the assistant prosecutor on the case, whom he later married. And Mr. Lee’s first state post-conviction counsel was so intoxicated during Mr. Lee’s court hearing that the prosecution asked for the lawyer to be drug tested after he slurred, stumbled, and made incoherent arguments.
We worked around the clock with colleagues from the ACLU to stop the state from executing Mr. Lee and grant him DNA testing to prove a murder he maintained, until the end, he did not commit.
After filing multiple motions to the Arkansas Supreme Court, they decided to rush Mr. Lee’s execution last night and deny him the opportunity to conduct DNA testing that could have proven his innocence. Mr. Lee asked for communion as his last meal.
We are devastated for the loss of our client Ledell Lee, 51, and infuriated by this act of injustice.
Please join us in sending Mr. Lee’s family your condolences in this time of great loss. A fund to help the family with funeral expenses has been set up by supporters in Arkansas here (Please specify that your donation is for Mr. Lee).
Thank you for your support,
Senior Staff Attorney