The Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops is the latest group to call on Gov. Greg Abbott to halt the execution of Rodney Reed, a Texas death row inmate whose original 1996 conviction of killing a woman has come into question.
In a statement to Catholic News Agency, the group, representing thousands of priests and other religious workers in Texas, said they’re opposed to the death penalty in general, but, “in the case of Mr. Reed, we are engaging as a matter of justice rather than mercy because there is substantial evidence that he may not be guilty of this crime,” said Jennifer Allmon, a spokesperson for the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“It would be a tremendous miscarriage of justice to allow the actual killer to go free while taking Mr. Reed’s life when there is untested DNA and an allegation of a confession by an alternate suspect that has not yet been investigated,” Allmon told CNA.
The group of Texas bishops said they are urging Abbott and the state’s Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant a reprieve for Reed.
Texas lawmakers from both parties, Austin law enforcement, civil rights groups, and celebrities like Kim Kardashian West have also called on Abbott to halt the execution.
In September, Innocence Project, a nonprofit that exonerates wrongfully convicted people, filed a Supreme Court petition to postpone Reed’s execution. The group has been highlighting substantial evidence that could exonerate Reed and implicate the fiancé of Stacey Sites, the Bastrop woman whom Reed was convicted of killing.
Among the key evidence that has brought the conviction into question is the fact that the murder weapon was never tested for DNA evidence, as well as a statement by a former prison mate of Stites’ fiancé, Jimmy Fennell, who said Fennell told him he killed his fiancé (after Reed was convicted, Fennell later served a 10-year prison term for a sex crime and kidnapping conviction).
Reed is scheduled to be executed in less than two weeks, on Nov. 20.
Texas is one of 29 states that still practice capital punishment. A 2014 often-cited study by the National Academy of Sciences estimates that at least 4 percent of defendants on death row are innocent.