Tuesday, April 18, 2017

TOP STORY >> Appeals filed for Lee and Williams

Leader executive editor

Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Herbert Wright denied a motion for new DNA testing for a death row inmate awaiting execution for the murder of a Jacksonville woman in 1993.

Ledell Lee, 51, formerly of Jacksonville, who made an appearance in Wright’s court Tuesday, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at 7 p.m. Thursday.

His lawyers say Lee was wrongly convicted with inconclusive DNA evidence and did not have proper legal representation in the beating death of Debra Reese, 26, who was struck 36 times with a tire tool in her home in the Sunnyside Addition.

Marcel Wayne Williams, 46, was denied a hearing Tuesday to stop his execution. He was convicted in 1994 of kidnapping a woman in Jacksonville and later killing her in Little Rock.

Williams’ attorneys had filed a brief in his behalf, saying he is diabetic, overweight and has sleep apnea. “This condition poses particular risks with the administration of the lethal-injection protocol,” his attorneys said Tuesday. “Mr. Williams will either suffer brain damage from a sub-lethal execution attempt or will die by suffocation. This is a risk that was previously unknown to Mr. Williams.”

Gov. Asa Hutchinson set execution dates by lethal injection for eight men in the latter half of April. That number has dropped to five as the death row inmates convince appeals court to stay their executions, the first for Arkansas in more than a decade.

District and federal courts have challenged the mass executions as cruel and unusual punishment, and even the drug manufacturers claim they were acquired under false pretenses and should not be used in executions.

The state Supreme Court earlier halted the executions of two men considered mentally challenged — Don Davis and Bruce Ward — but several others may proceed after Monday’s ruling by the Eighth U.S. Court of Appeals finding the other executions did not violate the killers’ constitutional rights against cruel and unusual punishment.

Hutchinson wanted to carry out the executions before the end of the month, when the lethal drugs are would expire.

Lee’s 1994 trial resulted in mistrial when it was discovered that a relative of his was on the jury. In 1995, the jury deliberated two hours before agreeing to the death sentence.

Reese was killed with a tire tool her husband had given her for her protection while he was driving a truck out of town.

Lee, who had just been paroled after serving time for burglary, was arrested an hour after the murder when witnesses reported seeing him walking down the street. Lee, who went on a crime spree in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was also convicted of raping two Jacksonville women and was tried for the murder of Christine Lewis, the daughter of the late Alderman Robert Lewis.

Lee was also suspected of killing a Jacksonville prostitute and dumping her body in a shed near the railroad tracks.

Lewis, 22, was abducted from her Sunnyside home in November 1989 as her 3-year-old child watched.

She was raped and strangled and her body dumped in the closet of an abandoned home.

The jury could not agree on a verdict in that trial, but prosecutors decided not to retry him when he received the death sentence in the Reese case and was convicted for raping two women. DNA evidence tied Lee to the murders and rapes.

The ACLU disputes that in its appeal.

Williams was found guilty in the capital murder, kidnapping, rape and aggravated robbery of Stacey Errickson, 22, who was married to an airman at Little Rock Air Force Base.

The victim had stopped at the Jacksonville Shellstop for gas around 6:45 a.m. on Nov. 20, 1994.

Williams approached Errickson’s vehicle, pulled a gun and had her move from the driver’s seat to the passenger’s side.

He drove the vehicle away from the gas station, taking the victim to several ATMs, where she withdrew $360 in 18 transactions that were recorded on security cameras.

The last transaction was made at 7:37 p.m. Her body was found in a shallow grave on Dec. 5 in North Little Rock.

Errickson died from strangulation. Her neck and face were deeply bruised, and her hands were tied behind her back. Williams was tried in Pulaski County Circuit Court, and appealed the convictions to the Arkansas Supreme Court, which affirmed the jury’s death sentence in 1999.