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Innocence Project files suit against Jacksonville, Ark.

Alleged wrongful execution

Isabell Rivera OW Contributor | 7/9/2020, midnight

DNA evidence from the crime scene has never been tested with modern technology, which is crucial, since modern DNA testing is the only method that can scientifically confirm the actual source of either hair, scrapings from under the fingernails of the victim, or other key evidence. However, in Lee’s case the court denied to allow new evidence or allow DNA testing that could have helped prove Lee’s innocence. The court argued that it was requested too late for it to be processed.

There were two trials for Lee’s case. The first one ended with a hung jury, after the jury was exposed to various alibi witnesses whose testimony proposed he couldn’t have carried out the crime. Nonetheless, at the second trial, the defense didn’t call any alibi witnesses, for reasons unknown.

Lee was therefore convicted and sentenced to death. Lee’s execution was scheduled for an 11-day period with eight other inmates because the supply of lethal injection drugs was about to expire in Arkansas. However, four of those eight were granted stays of execution. Lee was not one of them.

Justice for Lee

After Lee’s execution date was set, the Innocence Project and the ACLU started to work on Lee’s case, and found crucial flaws in the evidence that was used to convict him.

Leading forensic experts, Alicia Wilcox—a footwear examination expert—pathologist Dr. Michael Baden, and eyewitness misidentification expert Dr. Jennifer Dysart, who evaluated the case, agreed that the evidence initially used on Lee at the trial had significant flaws. The newfound evidence provides strong enough reasons that Lee is in fact innocent.

The fingerprints that were found at the crime scene were determined not to be Lee’s, but to this day have not been identified. Lee’s lawyers failed to have the found fingerprints examined independently before his execution. It has been discovered that at least five fingerprints eligible to be searched in the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System database could have made a difference by identifying the source in a short period of time.

The Innocence Project has found evidence that Lee’s post-conviction lawyer was battling substance abuse and that he was asked to be drug tested after he proved to be incoherent.

Lee’s post-conviction lawyer also failed to present a defense, or introduce valuable evidence that could have proven Lee’s innocence. Because of his substance use disorder and the immense workload, Lee’s lawyer tried to withdraw from the case and asked for support, but was repeatedly denied. Nevertheless, he supports the ongoing investigation done by the Innocence Project and the ACLU and has encouraged the courts to permit the DNA testing.

Judge’s affair

It was also found that Lee was tried by a judge who hid the fact he was having an affair with the assistant prosecutor on Lee’s case, whom he later married. Lee’s first state post-conviction counsel submitted the evidence regarding the affair by contacting the judge’s ex-wife, who testified.

Additionally, Lee also suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome disorder, as well as serious brain damage and crucial intellectual disability. His laywers failed to process this important aspect of defense against the death penalty.