The State of Texas is scheduled to execute Rodney Reed on January 14, 2015 for the 1996 murder and rape of 19-year-old Stacey Stites in Bastrop County. Since his initial trial in 1998, Reed has maintained his innocence, claiming that he had a consensual relationship with Stites and that he received poor representation from his original trial attorneys.
Reed’s execution was scheduled despite the fact that there are still DNA tests to be conducted. Both the defense and the prosecution agreed to further testing on several items, but the state refused to allow some additional items requested by the defense, including the murder weapon. Reed’s attorney, Bryce Benjet, argued, “This is a case with very real questions. Given the troubled history and troubled past [of the case], additional DNA evidence can ultimately undermine the rest of the evidence.” According to Judge Doug Shaver, there will be ample time to evaluate the evidence before the execution date.
On July 21, 2014, eight retired federal and state judges urged the U.S. Supreme Court to accept Reed’s appeal. Among them are Royal Ferguson of Texas, a retired federal judge appointed by President Bill Clinton, and Judge Charles Baird, who served eight years on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and four years as a state district judge in Austin. The judges are not taking a position on Reed’s innocence. They are instead focusing on the procedural errors of the appeals court that rejected Reed’s appeal in January. The judges believe that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was not the proper setting for the decisions that took place. In their amicus brief, the judges write that “trial courts are the appropriate venue for developing a factual record and resolving questions of fact.”
For more information, please refer to the following articles from The StandDown Texas Project: