Austin Dems file lawsuit to help death row inmate believed to be innocent

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On Monday, Austin-area Democrats joined local law enforcement in filing a supportive Supreme Court brief for Rodney Reed, a Texas death row inmate convicted of killing a 19-year-old woman in 1996. He is scheduled to be put to death on Nov. 20 unless Gov. Greg Abbott halts the execution.

“I’m deeply concerned that the state of Texas is about to execute a man who is potentially innocent of the charges against him,” state Rep. Vikki Goodwin said at press conference on Monday. “As I learned more about this case, I am more convinced that he did not receive a fair trial, that there was racial bias against Rodney Reed, and that Rodney Reed did not kill Stacey Stites.” 

Goodwin was joined by fellow Austin Democrat state Sen. Kirk Watson and 13 law enforcement officers who called on the state to review new evidence that may exonerate Reed. The group of lawmakers and officers also asked Gov. Greg Abbott for a 30-day reprieve of Reed’s scheduled execution next month.

The supportive amicus brief comes a month after Innocence Project, a nonprofit that exonerates wrongfully convicted people, filed a Supreme Court petition to postpone Reed’s execution. According to Innocence Project, Rodney has been denied DNA testing that could prove his innocence and other details about the case and trial have put the original conviction into question.

“A substantial amount of new information demonstrating Reed’s innocence has come to light,” the Innocence Project said in a statement. “Three new witnesses, who knew Fennell at the time of Stites’ murder, have come forward with information corroborating the already substantial evidence of Reed’s innocence and establishing a violation of due process.”

Kim Kardashian West has urged Abbott “to do the right thing.”

Reed’s possible innocence has put pressure on state leaders who still support the state’s death penalty. 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.

Photo: Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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