On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that Rodney Reed, a long-time Texas death row prisoner who has been on death row for many years, should be allowed to present his case in favor of testing crime scene evidence that will he claims help him clear himself.
In a 6-3 ruling, the justices sent Reed’s constitutional challenge against the state’s DNA testing law back to a lower level court.
The high court had to decide whether Reed, who was sentenced to die nearly 25 years earlier, had waited too long before filing his lawsuit, which claimed that untested evidence from the crime scene would exonerate Reed. The Texas courts as well as the federal appeals in New Orleans decided that Reed missed the deadline.
The Supreme Court reversed this ruling in an opinion written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Samuel Alito all dissented. Thomas wrote that, “if there is any mitigating factor in today’s ruling,” it would be the fact that “the outcome [is] no barrier to Reed’s prompt execution of his lawful sentence.”
Reed was sentenced death for the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites, a 19-year old girl. Prosecutors claim Reed raped Stites and strangled her as she made the journey to Bastrop, an agricultural community located about 30 miles south of Austin.
Reed has maintained for years that Stites’ former fiancee, Jimmy Fennell (a retired police officer), was the killer. Reed claims that Fennell became angry when Stites, a white man, began an affair with Reed. Fennell has denied murdering Stites, despite serving time in prison for a sexual assault.
Reed has received support from all over the world. Beyonce and Kim Kardashian, Oprah Winfrey and both party lawmakers have lent their support.