The Austin Chronicle

Death Watch: State Seeks Death Date for Rodney Reed

Defense attorneys fire back, ask court to strike state's motion

By Sarah Marloff, July 19, 2019, News

After more than 20 years on death row, Rodney Reed may be coming closer to his second scheduled execution date. Bastrop County District Attorney Bryan Goertz and Texas Assistant Attorney General Matthew Ottoway filed a motion on July 12 to set Nov. 20 as the day Reed is put to death for the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites, a crime he has consistently said he didn't commit. The filing came two weeks after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals – which stayed Reed's execution in 2015 – denied his most recent requests for relief; the prosecutors also asked the district court in Bastrop to deny Reed a hearing on their motion, asserting that he "is represented by a plethora of attorneys who can make objections, if any, known through briefing."

Reed's lawyers at the Innocence Project fired back with a motion to dismiss the request, which they allege was filed in retaliation after a Bastrop Advertiser story on July 11 in which Reed's family insisted that his fight "is nowhere near over" and discussed possible appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court and 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The state filing its motion the following day, Reed's motion argues, "creates a strong inference that the execution date was sought for the improper purpose of responding to Mr. Reed and his family's exercise of their First Amendment rights." His lawyers further ask the court to impose sanctions on the prosecutors. In comments to the Statesman (which publishes the Advertiser), Goertz called Reed's response "ludicrous," saying he'd only requested an execution date to comply with court-imposed procedural deadlines.

On Tuesday, July 16, following Reed's filing, Ottoway sent a letter to the Bastrop court claiming that it does not possess the jurisdiction to rule on Reed's requests, and that the state will go to the CCA to "prevent such a ruling or any appeal therefrom." The letter also asserts that the state "still respectfully seeks the execution date it has most recently requested."

Elsewhere on death row, an execution date of Oct. 10 has been set for one of the remaining members of the Texas Seven, Randy Halprin, who has an appeal pending in federal court. Halprin, who was convicted of capital murder under the state's controversial "law of parties," is one of 10 Texas men set to die between Aug. 15 and Nov. 6.

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