Rodney Reed will have his case heard by the Supreme Court Tuesday, says a report from CNN. Reed, who’s been on death row for over 20 years, is seeking to overturn his conviction due to DNA evidence that may be able to prove his innocence. However, the Court must determine if his request is too late.
Reed was convicted in the killing of a white woman in Texas in 1998. According to the report, lower courts were split on the decision to allow Reed’s DNA evidence to be considered following the statute of limitations. The federal appeals court decided Reed was too late to bring his claim. Now, the Supreme Court will have to settle the dispute, a decision that could open possibilities for any other death row inmate to have their cases reviewed.
According to a recent report from the National Registry of Exonerations, pre-trial DNA testing is growing to become the most instrumental form of evidence to avoid a false conviction in a rape. Reports say Reed’s sperm was found inside the victim, Stacey Stites. However, Reed claims DNA testing would point to her fiancé, Jimmy Fennell. Additionally, witnesses have come forth suggesting Fennell was more of a threat to Stites than Reed, per the Texas Tribune. On top of that, an all-white jury decided to put him away.
Despite the compelling evidence, Texas remained stubborn in giving his sentence another look. Reed’s execution was delayed in 2019 after a campaign sparked in support of him, gathering support from celebrities like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian. Now, he’s trying to use his time wisely.
More on the hearing from CNN:
The Texas law at issue allows a convicted person to obtain post-conviction DNA testing of biological material if the court finds that certain conditions are met. Reed was denied. He came to the Supreme Court in 2018 and was denied again. Now he is challenging the constitutionality of the Texas law arguing that the denial of the DNA testing violates his due process rights.
Janai Nelson of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund supports Reed arguing in briefs that the “overwhelming majority of incarcerated persons exonerated through DNA evidence since its introduction in 1989, have been people of color and primarily Black men.”
Texas Solicitor General Judd Stone II responded in court papers that at trial the state introduced “substantial” evidence that Reed had “sexually assaulted multiple other women.” Besides arguing that the suit is untimely, he also says that Reed’s claim cannot be brought because he lacks the legal right, or “standing,” to bring the case.