Monday, September 23, 2019

Rodney Reed. Death row; Texas: Word is traveling afar in this so readily avoidable miscarriage of justice which could take the life of an innocent man. The Economist notes that Texas is planning to execute Rodney Reed in spite of his claims that DNA evidence could exonerate him, in an article which appears under the rubric 'democracy in America.'..."At the trial, the main evidence connecting Mr Reed to the crime was strands of his DNA found inside Ms Stites’s body. Mr Reed said he had been having an affair with Ms Stites at the time of her death—and that he had sex with her the day before she was found strangled with her own woven leather belt on the side of a country road in Bastrop County, Texas. No evidence put Mr Reed at the scene of the crime. Nor were there any eyewitnesses implicating him. Instead, prosecutors relied on Mr Reed’s semen found in a vaginal swab and presented this to jurors as the “smoking gun”. But Mr Reed and his legal team—including lawyers from the Innocence Project, an organisation dedicated to freeing wrongfully convicted prisoners and, in capital cases, fighting against their executions—argue that the trial was marred by unexamined evidence and false scientific claims. They argue that Jimmy Fennell, Ms Stites’s fiancé and a police officer at the time, should have been more closely investigated."

PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "For years, Mr Reed’s lawyers have been arguing that their client should get a new trial in which additional evidence—including DNA analysis of previously overlooked crime-scene items—could be introduced. During the original trial, neither Ms Stites’s clothing nor the murder weapon, the belt, was analysed for genetic material. But these garments and objects remain safely stored, have not been tampered with or compromised and could, plausibly, if tested, exonerate Mr Reed. In 2017, the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas refused to order post-conviction DNA analysis because Mr Reed did not prove that “exculpatory DNA results would have resulted in his acquittal”. This June, the same court denied a similar request. With avenues in state courts thus closed mere months before Mr Reed’s execution date, his lawyers’ latest attempt to get a federal court to order a new trial invokes both civil-rights law and the federal constitution."


PASSAGE TWO OF THE DAY: "Mr Reed’s lawyers also observe that key testimony from a forensic scientist attesting to the timeline of Ms Stites’s death was later found (by the scientist’s admission) to be false and that eye witnesses had seen Mr Reed and Ms Stites together “at various times prior to her murder”, apparently supporting his claim that they had been in a relationship. All of this may cast doubt on the validity of Mr Reed’s conviction, but none of it proves his innocence."


STORY: "Fighting for a retrialTexas plans to execute a man who says DNA evidence could exonerate him, published by The Guardian on September 23, 2019.