Rodney Reed's scheduled execution has been stayed indefinitely by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which cites both new evidence and issues with his 1998 trial to send the long-running case back to trial court for "further development."
Reed, who was convicted for the murder two years earlier of Stacey Stites, has consistently proclaimed his innocence while pursuing appeals from death row for more than 20 years. In recent weeks, as his latest execution date of Nov. 20 drew near, interest in the case has reached a fever pitch both locally and across the world, with celebrities, Republican lawmakers, and millions of supporters calling for justice.
The CCA in its opinion issued Friday, Nov. 15 agreed that the latest habeas filing by Reed's attorneys raised claims worth review concerning improper suppression of exculpatory evidence (known as Brady claims) and false testimony presented by prosecutors, as well as Reed's claim of actual innocence. This order by the state's highest criminal court came several hours after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously voted to recommend that Gov. Greg Abbott grant Reed a 120-day reprieve, which would allow for the exploration of new witness statements and DNA testing of forensic evidence, including the belt used to strangle Stites.Abbott, the focus of incoming pleas from everyone from Ted Cruz to Kim Kardashian to Sister Helen Prejean to spare Reed's life, now can maintain his silence on the case while the 21st District Court in Bastrop County figures out its next steps. Senior Judge Doug Shaver, who had presided over developments in the case since 2014, indicated in August his wish to retire from the case; a new judge will presumably be appointed to conduct any evidentiary hearings, order forensic testing, or pave the way for a new trial.
Read the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' full opinion.
This is a developing story. We'll be updating throughout the weekend and in our next issue.
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