Clemency hearing held for two Ark. men facing execution

Clemency hearing held for two Ark. men on death row

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Friday, two men had one final chance to beg for their lives after being convicted of capital murder in the 90’s.

They're scheduled to be executed on April 17. Both still say they're innocent. The victims’ family members also had a chance to speak before the parole board.

Both Stacey Johnson and Ladell Lee asked the state parole board to reduce their sentence from death to life in prison. After hearing their case and also hearing from the family members of the victims, the parole board will decide whether they recommend granting clemency.

"For years, for close to 25 years I’ve been in Arkansas Department of Correction for a crime that I didn’t' do. I didn't kill Carol Heath,” said Johnson.

Begging for his life, Johnson was accused in the 1993 rape and slaying of Carol Heath who was found beaten and strangled in her home in DeQueen. Heath's sister, Melissa Cassady, asked the board to deny clemency.

"That’s a long time and he has shown no remorse for his actions on that night," said Cassady.

Heath's son, Jonathan Erickson, was two years old at the time.

“I don’t understand why this needs to take so long. The evidence was laid before the courts, the courts and the jury made their decision," said Erickson.

Johnson was convicted twice but said he was framed for the murder and wants DNA testing done now. His prosecutor, Tom Cooper, said they've already done it and two jury’s found him guilty.

"Not only did the defendant not show any remorse, but no matter how graphic, how horrible, or how sad the testimony, his expression never changed, never changed," said Cooper.

Ledell Lee is also hoping to have his life spared. He did not show up to the hearing. His attorney, Lee Short, spoke for him.

"He has always stood by the fact that he is innocent and I can’t tell you, the trial would look significantly different if he was to have attorneys that didn’t have a conflict," said Short.

He was found guilty of killing 26-year-old Debra Reese in 1993. He allegedly beat her 36 times with a tire tool that her husband gave her for protection.

"My mother was everything to me," said Reese’s son, Joseph Lucky. “I’m asking you and begging you to please let us have some closure."

Lee's prosecutor, Holly Meyer, called him a super predator, mentioning several crimes he was found guilty of.

“Ledell Lee is a super predator that doesn’t kill to eat, he kills for fun, he kills for thrill,” said Meyer.

The parole board deliberated Friday afternoon and said to expect a recommendation by Monday. The governor will have the final say. Next week, clemency hearings will be held for three additional men.

© 2017 KTHV-TV


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