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Who is Rodney Reed?

Rodney Reed is a black man who has been on death row since 1998. He is scheduled to be executed on 20 November 2019, in connected with the murder of a young white women named Stacey Stites, which both he and leading forensic pathologists maintain he did not commit.

Expert opinion and other evidence call into question the state’s theory of the crime, as well as the forensic evidence on which it was based. The prosecution claimed Rodney’s DNA was left during a rape occurring in the same time period as the murder. The prosecution’s forensic expert has since signed a statement indicating that his testimony was misused by the prosecution – that his estimate “should not have been used at trial as an accurate statement of when Ms Stites died” – and that the semen could have been left more than 24 hours before the victim’s death, consistent with Rodney’s claim of consensual sex in that time frame.

Three leading forensic pathologists have concluded that there is no evidence that Stacey Stites was sexually assaulted, rather than having engaged in consensual intercourse at least 24 hours earlier.

One expert concluded that the forensic evidence renders the state’s theory about time of death “medically and scientifically impossible”. Another concluded “beyond a reasonable degree of medical certainty that, based on all of the forensic evidence, Mr. Reed is scheduled to be executed for a crime he did not commit”.

Further details of the case

Stacey Stites was killed before midnight on 22 April 1996, and her body kept face down for some four to six hours before being transported to where it was found.

Rodney was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Stacey Stites; in Texas on 23 April 1996. DNA testing of semen from her body was matched to Rodney’s DNA. The victim was engaged to a white police officer at the time of her death. Rodney initially denied knowing her, fearing being implicated in her murder. Several witnesses have confirmed their relationship.

A 2015 execution date was stayed based on newly discovered evidence. However, Texas courts have repeatedly denied requests for DNA testing of that crime scene evidence, resetting his execution for 20 November 2019. His attorneys wrote to the Governor on 21 October, urging him to grant a 30-day reprieve and to allow the Board of Pardons and Parole to investigate whether commutation – a form of pardon that reduces the punishment of a crime – should be granted. On 30 October, an application for clemency (pardon) was filed.

International safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty state that, this punishment “may be imposed only when the guilt of the person charged is based upon clear and convincing evidence leaving no room for an alternative explanation of the facts”.

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