Family and nun fight for retrial as man convicted by all-white jury faces death penalty

source: The Guardian
published: 12 September 2019

Supporters of Rodney Reed, scheduled for execution in November, point to racial bias and questionable evidence. “He never had a chance.” That’s what Sandra Reed said at the start of a rally in front of the Texas governor’s mansion calling for a retrial for her son, Rodney Reed.

Reed, 51, has been on death row in Texas since 1998 and is scheduled to be executed on 20 November for murder.

But an array of supporters even beyond his own family, ranging from some relatives of the woman he was convicted of killing to a world-famous nun, argue that Reed is innocent and is a casualty of a criminal justice system beset by errors and racial bias.

In 1998, Reed, who is African American, was convicted – by an all-white jury – of the 1996 murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites. His family has spent years trying to get his case overturned and he is represented by the Innocence Project, the not-for-profit group that focuses on DNA testing to exonerate wrongly convicted people and campaigns to reform the system.

Reed’s lawyers filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Texas last month, after repeatedly being thwarted in their demands for DNA testing of the murder weapon, a leather belt used to strangle Stites. His lead attorney, Bryce Benjet of the Innocence Project, said continued refusal to perform the test violates Reed’s constitutional rights.

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