LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released a statement following the execution by lethal injection of inmate Ledell Lee.
“Tonight the lawful sentence of a jury which has been upheld by the courts through decades of challenges has been carried out. The family of the late Debra Reese, who was brutally murdered with a tire thumper after being targeted because she was home alone, has waited more than 24 years to see justice done. I pray this lawful execution helps bring closure for the Reese family.”
Facts of the case and procedural history:
Ledell Lee was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in Pulaski County in 1996. In February 1993, Lee strangled and beat Debra Reese with a tire thumper, resulting in her death. On the morning of the murder, Lee had been going door to door in Reese’s neighborhood asking to borrow tools. Lee, a serial kidnapper and rapist, targeted Reese after he discovered she was home alone. Reese was last heard from when she telephoned her mother to tell her about the encounter with Lee, which left her uneasy. Reese’s battered body was discovered in her bedroom later that same day.
The Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed Lee’s conviction and sentence on direct appeal in 1997. Thereafter, Lee filed a petition for post-conviction relief that was denied by the circuit court, and the denial was affirmed by the Arkansas Supreme Court on appeal. Lee’s petition for post-conviction relief was reconsidered by the circuit court after a U.S. District Court judge found that Lee’s post-conviction counsel might have been impaired during the proceedings. Following a hearing on his amended petition for post-conviction relief, Lee was again denied relief by the circuit court, and the Arkansas Supreme Court again affirmed the denial on appeal. Lee also sought relief in a petition for writ of habeas corpus filed in federal court, and it was denied. Lee unsuccessfully tried to appeal the denial, first to the 8th Circuit Court and then to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Lee filed an application for executive clemency citing separate conflicts of interest with counsel and the trial judge, reasonable doubt as to his guilt, an offer of a life sentence from the State and a change in societal acceptance of the death penalty as bases for relief. A clemency hearing was held on March 24, and Lee’s application was denied.