What's at Stake
Ledell Lee has filed a motion in federal court asking the court reopen his case due to the breakdown in counsel over his decades of review, particularly the failure of counsel to bring evidence of his intellectual disability. Lee has presented new evidence showing that he has fetal alcohol syndrome disorder, significant brain damage, and intellectual disability. These facts were concealed by the line of counsel plagued with conflicts of interests, substance abuse, serious mental illness, and gross incompetence.
Additionally, Lee was tried by a judge who concealed his own conflict of interest: an affair with the assistant prosecutor, to whom the judge was later married. Mr. Lee’s first state post-conviction counsel introduced the evidence of the affair by calling the judge’s ex-wife, who testified about the affair after opposing the subpoena. That lawyer, however, was so intoxicated at the hearing that the state moved for him to be drug tested after he slurred, stumbled, and made incoherent arguments.
The inebriated lawyer also represented Lee briefly in federal court, where he raised the important claim that Lee was ineligible for execution because of intellectual disability.
Lee won new proceedings because of the lawyer’s drunkenness, though his representation did not improve afterward. His next lawyers failed to introduce evidence of the affair, giving up one of many of Lee’s important arguments, and never pursued his innocence or intellectual disability claims.
Lee is currently scheduled for execution as one of eight prisoners Arkansas Governor Hutchinson originally scheduled for execution in assembly-line fashion between April 17 and April 27. While three of those executions have now been stayed, Lee’s life remains in jeopardy.