Rodney Reed was set to die Nov. 20, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted his execution amid advocates and lawmakers saying he was wrongly convicted of rape and murder in 1998.
A state parole board voted unanimously Friday to recommend Gov. Greg Abbott delay the execution by 120 days, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals voted for an indefinite stay of execution.
Reed, a Black man, was convicted and sentenced to death by an all-white jury for the 1996 rape and murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites. Nearly 3 million people had signed an online petition in support of Reed. His attorneys sought another trial, based on witness testimony and evidence that would have exonerated Reed being held from the jury. Reed says he had a consensual relationship with Stites which accounts for the DNA that was found on her body. Emerging witness testimony suggests Stites’ then-fiance, local police officer Jimmy Fennell, committed the crime. Fennell is serving 10 years in prison for kidnapping a woman and sexually assaulting her while he was on duty. Sworn affidavits from witnesses also say that Fennell had threatened to kill Stites before — and that he had confessed to the murder to a prison mate. Fennell’s lawyer said he denies having killed Stites.
Kim Kardashian West, who was one of the public figures advocating to halt Reed’s execution, was with him when he learned his life would be spared.
“It was extremely emotional, and he said, ‘Praise Jesus’ … I could just feel his soul when he said that,” Kardashian West said in a “Today” show interview with Jenna Bush Hager that aired Monday.
Though Reed’s advocates and defense team say a “mountain of evidence” exonerates Reed, the prosecution and others still maintain that he is guilty. Six women had made claims that Reed raped and attempted to murder them. Reed was arrested for the rape, beating and attempted murder of 19-year-old Linda Schlueter after the Stites case. His criminal file also includes other allegations of sexual violence.
He was charged and acquitted in one case and not prosecuted in the others.
Advocates may have been successful in achieving the halting of Reed’s execution, but they are saying they still have work to do. He is still incarcerated, and there will still be another trial. On Sunday, Freerodneyreed.com organized nationwide rallies in support of Reed, continuing to demand his freedom.
Reed’s case is unique because he has earned bipartisan support against his execution, including from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Democrat and Republican members of the House Criminal Justice Reform Caucus sent Abbott and David Gutiérrez, chair of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, a letter asking to grant Reed clemency.
Reed’s mother, Sandra Reed, told CBS affiliate KEYE-TV she was relieved and elated to hear her son was no longer scheduled to die.
“I am so happy,” she said. “I am one happy, happy mother.”