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Someone else’s DNA has been found on a murder weapon four years after a death row inmate was executed over the crime, his family’s lawyers say.
Ledell Lee, who was executed in Arkansas, US in 2017, insisted he was innocent up until the end.
His last words to the BBC were: “My dying words will always be, as it has been: I am an innocent man."
He was convicted of murdering Debra Reese in Jacksonville, Arkansas 1993 by beating her with a tyre thumper.
The tool, which looks like a sawn-off baseball bat, is used by truckers to test the pressure of their wheels.
Lee, 51, was one of eight men put on a conveyor belt of death which saw them given lethal injections.
Arkansas was desperate to ensure its supply of midazolam, the sedative used in lethal injections, didn’t expire, the Mirror reports.
But lawyers for his family now say a new person’s DNA has been found on the weapon.
The development raises fresh questions about his conviction.
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Lee Short, who had been his lawyer, told CNN : “I think if those results had been had before he was executed, he'd still be alive.”
His family’s lawyers commissioned DNA testing of the handle of the tyre thumper.
They said the results, which they received last month, showed the DNA of a mystery man.
The legal team said it appeared to match DNA which was found on a bloody white shirt which had been wrapped around the murder weapon.
And yet, the club's handle and the shirt had never been tested before.
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The genetic profile has been uploaded to a national criminal database in an attempt to identify whose it is.
According to the Innocence Project, the DNA results did not show an "absolute or conclusive" connection to Lee.
Lee, who was convicted of capital murder in 1995, was the first death row inmate executed in Arkansas in more than a decade.
In a statement, his sister Patricia Young said: “We remain hopeful that there will be further information uncovered in the future.”
Two days before he was executed, Lee told the Mirror: “They are trying to kill an innocent man, just to see if they can actually get away with it.
“History has proven that instead of righting a wrong, this nation would rather cover up instead of apologising and try to make right that wrong.
“And why? Because this nation as a whole would rather live with that lie to keep from being embarrassed no matter what the cost.
“Even if that cost means trying to kill an innocent man.”
The Death Penalty Information Centre said one in eight people executed since the 1970s has been exonerated.
Around 20 men have gone to the chamber wrongly, it said.
Arkansas Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge dismissed the criticism.
He insisted the evidence demonstrated Lee was guilty “beyond any shadow of a doubt”.
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