OKLAHOMA CITY – An Oklahoma man says new evidence of prosecutors withholding information should result in a new trial on his 1999 murder conviction and death penalty for killing an Arkansas family as part of a plot to set up a whites-only nation in the Pacific Northwest.
Attorneys for Danny Lee, 45, of Yukon say in documents filed late Monday in U.S. District Court in Little Rock that prosecutors illegally failed to tell defense attorneys that a witness, who testified that Lee admitted to the murders to him, also told investigators he believed Lee was lying.
The witness “warned authorities that Mr. Lee had a habit of falsely claiming responsibility for criminal acts in order to make himself seem like a ‘tough guy,’ ” according to the filing, which said the man was told by prosecutors not to volunteer information while testifying.
“He therefore did not relate to the jury that Danny Lee had a penchant for boasting about acts he had not done; that he had consistently warned authorities about that fact; and that despite appearing as a witness for the government, he continued to discount the veracity of Mr. Lee’s purported admission,” the motion said.
Lee’s attorneys also said DNA tests in 2007 excluded Lee from evidence connected to the slayings and that, plus the newly revealed information should result in a new trial.
The motion did not indicate when the information was discovered, and Lee’s attorney, Morris Moon of the Federal Capital Habeas Project, did not immediately return a phone call to the Associated Press.
The filing also said DNA testing in 2007 revealed that hair on evidence linked to the killings, and to Lee by testimony during the trial, has excluded Lee.
Court filings do not show that a direct appeal based on DNA evidence has been filed, but an appeal claiming Lee’s defense attorneys during the trial should have requested DNA testing on the hair was denied in 2008 on the grounds that not enough of the evidence existed at the time.
Lee and Chevie Kehoe, 45, of Colville, Washington, were convicted of killing gun dealer William Mueller, his wife Nancy Mueller and her 8-year-old daughter, Sarah Powell, of Russellville in 1996 and stealing guns and cash as part of the plot to set up a whites-only nation.
Kehoe, described by federal prosecutors at the time as the leader of the plot, was sentenced to life without parole days before Lee was sentenced.
Prosecutors, seeking the death penalty for both men, at the time described Kehoe as the ringleader and Lee as his henchman.
“In light of the sentencing that Chevie Kehoe received, I’m struggling to understand the verdict,” said Jack Lassiter, who represented Lee at the time.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Givens in Little Rock referred questions to the U.S. Department of Justice, which also did not immediately return a phone call for comment.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.