2017-06-12 13:00:45 UTC
Rodney Reed's mother hopes finding of false testimony leads to 'justice'
The mother of death row inmate Rodney Reed said Saturday she is guardedly
optimistic about her son's chances for freedom after the Texas Court of
Criminal Appeals ruled prosecutors presented "false and misleading" testimony
in his 1998 capital murder conviction.
"I'm hoping for justice," Sandra Reed told the American-Statesman. "But we have
presented so many other pieces of evidence before this that should have at
least opened up a new trial. How can you bring a case to justice without the
She and other family members held a news conference late Saturday at the
Bastrop County Courthouse.
"We want to keep it in the air that there is an innocent man on death row and
that he's suffered enough," she said. "We're ready for him to come home."
Reed was convicted of the 1996 murder of Stacy Stites, a 19-year-old Giddings
resident with whom he claimed he was having a secret affair. Prosecutors argued
Reed abducted, raped and strangled Stiles on her way to work.
But defense attorneys have argued that Stites was was killed by her fiance,
Jimmy Fennell, a former Georgetown police officer who is now serving a 10-year
sentence for the kidnapping and sexual assault of a woman in his custody in
Reed's attorney Bryce Benjet has said that the state's key expert witness at
the trial, then-Travis County Medical Examiner Roberto Bayardo, has since
disavowed his testimony implicating Reed, saying that the sperm found in
Stites' body was likely deposited more than 24 hours before her death.
Benjet said a new analysis of medical and forensic evidence by a pair of
forensic pathologists shows that Stites was likely killed hours before she was
supposed to have left for work and that her body was moved to a rural Bastrop
County road after her death.
The court of appeals last month rejected the defense claim that the new
evidence established Reed's innocence, but sent the case back to a Bastrop
County court to consider the claims of false testimony during the original
Bastrop District Attorney Bryan Goertz said at the time: "It's just another
legal hurdle that needs to be dealt with."
Reed was 10 days from his execution date in February 2015, when the court
ordered a closer look at his request for modern DNA testing of items linked to
the murder. But in April the appeals court denied Reed's request for additional
DNA testing, citing the possibility of "cross-contamination" of evidence that
had mingled in boxes after repeated handling by court employees.
Sandra Reed said though she's hopeful the finding of false testimony will lead
to a new trial and her son's exoneration, she remains somewhat skeptical.
"You're sending him back to the same county that convicted him in the first
place," she said. "We will keep fighting and demanding justice for as long as
(source: Austin American-Statesman)
Why America still executes people----The legal reasoning behind the continued
use of the death penalty
America is 1 of only a few countries in the Western world that still puts
criminals to death. Even there, executions are on the wane: just 20 were
carried out in 2016, down from a peak of 98 in 1999. Popular support is
declining, too. Just 60% of Americans approve of the death penalty for murder,
down from 80% in the 1990s. Only 8 states have carried out an execution since
2015, and around 2/3 either have abolished capital punishment or have a
moratorium on its use. But it has not disappeared altogether: during an
eight-day stretch in April, Arkansas executed 4 people, so as not to waste its
expiring supply of a lethal-injection drug. And last month in Alabama, a man
who spent 35 years on death row - and eluded 7 execution dates - was finally
put to death. Why does America continue to execute people?
Following the Supreme Court's 1972 ruling in Furman v Georgia, capital
punishment was put on hold. The penalty was applied in an arbitrary and
capricious manner, violating the Eighth Amendment bar on "cruel and unusual
punishments", the justices held. If any factor explains why some criminals get
death sentences while most do not, Justice Potter Stewart wrote, "it is the
constitutionally impermissible basis of race". 4 years later the Supreme Court
reinstated the death penalty in Gregg v Georgia by a 7-2 majority, finding that
states had mended their death-penalty laws to address the concerns in Furman.
One way to understand why America still executes people is to look at the Fifth
Amendment, which provides that nobody will "be deprived of life...without due
process of law". How could the framers of the constitution have banned capital
punishment in the Eighth Amendment when, in the Fifth, they specifically
contemplated its existence? In Gregg, the court cited 2 justifications for the
death penalty: retributive justice and deterrence. Retribution, ???an
expression of society's moral outrage at particularly offensive conduct",
Justice Stewart wrote, is "essential in an ordered society that asks its
citizens to rely on legal processes, rather than self-help, to vindicate their
wrongs". In other words, an abhorrent crime deserves an equally grave penalty.
He acknowledged that scholars disagree about how well capital punishment
discourages crime, but insisted that "the death penalty undoubtedly is a
significant deterrent" for some potential criminals.
Since Gregg, the Supreme Court has steadily narrowed the pool of miscreants
eligible for the death penalty. Rape was nixed as a capital crime in 1977.
People with intellectual disabilities and juveniles were spared the ultimate
punishment in 2002 and 2005, respectively. But any prospects for the oft-curbed
penalty being killed off completely are dim - despite a crusade led by Justice
Stephen Breyer, who dissented sharply in Glossip v Gross, a 2015 case asking
whether a drug used in lethal injections entailed the risk of torturing
prisoners to death. Rather than "try[ing] to patch up the death penalty's legal
wounds 1 at a time", he wrote, it is time for a "full briefing on a more basic
question: whether the death penalty violates the constitution". It was 23 years
ago that the late Justice Harry Blackmun predicted in Callins v Collins that
America's system of capital punishment was "doomed to failure" and that while
he "may not live to see that day", he had "faith that eventually it will
arrive". With the Supreme Court's recently reinforced 5-justice conservative
majority, that day of reckoning seems far off still.
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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