Rodney Reed’s execution has been halted.
The Texas prisoner, who has claimed his innocence in the murder of a woman over two decades ago, was sentenced to death. However, according to The New York Times, an appeals court suspended Reed’s execution on Friday (Nov. 15). The reprieve, which was made by the Court of Criminal Appeals in Texas, has now opened the floor to consider new evidence in the case, including testimony from eyewitnesses who came forward in recent months suggesting that the victim’s fiancé could be a suspect as well.
The court’s ruling came just hours after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended delaying Reed’s execution. It was also recommended that Gov. Greg Abbot grant a 120-day reprieve for Reed. The 51-year-old had been set for lethal injection on Nov. 20 for the murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites, The New York Times reports. Prosecutors claim that Reed raped and strangled Stites as she was heading to work at a supermarket in Bastrop, 30 miles southeast of Austin. Her body was dumped along a rural road. Reed’s arrest was primarily based on DNA tests, according to The New York Times.
BET reports that Reed claimed to have had a consensual sexual relationship with Stites, which is why his DNA was found in her body. The new witnesses who have come forward, including the victim’s cousin and coworker were allegedly aware of Reed’s relationship with Stites. However, there are also reports where witnesses say Stites’ then-fiancé confessed to having “to kill my [n-word]-loving fiancée.” Forensic scientists have concluded that it was scientifically impossible that Reed killed Stites, according to the DNA. Also, the murder weapon, her own belt, was not tested for DNA.
Reed’s case caught the attention and interest of many in recent weeks. Celebrities such as Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian and Rihanna, as well as lawmakers from both parties, including Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, and social activist Shaun King, asked for officials to further investigate the evidence in the case. There was even a petition, which received nearly 3 million signatures.
“At every turn we have asked for a hearing at which we can present the evidence, in full, of Rodney Reed’s innocence,” said Bryce Benjet, one of Mr. Reed’s lawyers. “So it is extremely rewarding that we can finally have a chance to fully present his case in court, so it can be determined that he did not commit this crime.”
The Innocence Project, which has been representing Reed as well, said in a statement, “We are extremely relieved and thankful that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) has issued a stay of execution for our client Rodney Reed. The CCA has ordered the claims of Brady violations, false testimony and actual innocence in Mr. Reed’s case back to the trial court. This opportunity will allow for proper consideration of the powerful and mounting new evidence of Mr. Reed’s innocence.”