LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas judge on Tuesday approved an agreement to allow new tests of fingerprint and DNA evidence that two groups say could exonerate a man executed in 2017.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen approved the agreement between the city of Jacksonville and the sister of Ledell Lee, who was executed for the 1993 slaying of Debra Reese. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Innocence Project had sued the city seeking the evidence released.
Griffen canceled a hearing that had been scheduled for Wednesday morning on the groups’ lawsuit.
The agreement will allow the DNA evidence to be tested by a laboratory approved by the city and the groups and for the fingerprints to be uploaded into a national database. The groups will pay for the evidence testing.
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.
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.