We have yet again another depressing story of new evidence emerging that a man who was executed two years ago while strenuously pleading his innocence of the crime may have been telling the truth.
The day before Ledell Lee was executed on 20 April 2017, he talked to the BBC from death row. He said that while he could not prevent the state of Arkansas from killing him, he had a message for his executioners: “My dying words will always be, as it has been: ‘I am an innocent man’.”
Almost two years after Lee was strapped to a gurney and injected with a lethal cocktail of drugs, it looks increasingly likely he was telling the truth: he went to his death an innocent man. New evidence has emerged that suggests Lee was not guilty of the brutal murder of a woman in 1993 for which his life was taken.
An 81-page filing in the lawsuit provides damning new evidence that key aspects of the prosecution case against Lee were deeply flawed. The complaint includes expert opinion from a number of world-leading specialists who find glaring errors in the way forensic science and other evidence was interpreted.
The lawsuit also includes a bombshell affidavit from Lee’s post-conviction attorney who admits to having struggled with substance abuse and addiction throughout the years in which he represented him.
Innocence has always been the achilles heel of America’s death penalty: how to justify judicially killing prisoners who may have been wrongfully convicted. The question is far from academic: since 1973 no fewer than 167 death row inmates have been exonerated.
The most harrowing question is whether innocent prisoners have been executed before the flawed nature of their convictions emerged. In recent years, there have been several cases that, with near certainty, suggest that innocent men have been put to death.
I am just sick, sick, sick of these stories. This is so unnecessary. There is nothing to be gained by the state killing people since that is a punishment that rules out the possibility of new evidence. Taking someone’s life is something that should be viewed with horror. So why do we let the state do it on our behalf?
While it is undoubtedly true that the world would be better off without some people, there is no excuse whatsoever for the death penalty because you can be sure that there will be innocent people who will be killed. Any country that has it on the books and uses it is barbaric, plain and simple, dressing up a primitive urge to wreak a brutal act of vengeance under the guise of justice. Such a country does not belong among the civilized nations of the world.