Lexington Man to Walk Free After 11 Years on Death Row
Joseph Lee Ard, originally convicted of killing his girlfriend and unborn baby, will walk free after 19 years in jail and 11 years on death row.
LEXINGTON, SC -- Joseph Lee Ard, a man who spent 11 years on death row after being convicted of killing his girlfriend and their unborn child, will be released from prison this week, according to multiple news reports.
A jury decided last week that Ard did not intentionally kill his girlfriend, 17-year-old Madalyn Coffey, and their baby in 1993, according to a report from WIS.
The jury found Ard guilty of involuntary manslaughter, according to a report in The State. The judge sentenced him to time served, meaning he'll be free after he's processed through the state prison system.
Ard says that he didn't intentionally kill Coffey; the gun went off during a struggle. Ard said Coffey was threatening to kill herself, according to court documents. When he tried to pull the gun away, he said, it went off.
New evidence was presented during Ard's retrial that supported his story, according to The State, including scientific evidence of gunshot residue on Coffey's hands.
Ard was originally convicted of two counts of murder in 1996 and sentenced to death row.
The state Supreme Court granted him a new trial in 2007. The prosecution chose not to seek the death penalty in Ard's retrial.