Protests win stay of execution, new hearing for Rodney Reed

By Alyson Kennedy
December 2, 2019
Nov. 17 action in Austin, Texas, celebrates victory, gives boost to fight to free Rodney Reed.
Militant/Alyson KennedyNov. 17 action in Austin, Texas, celebrates victory, gives boost to fight to free Rodney Reed.

AUSTIN, Texas — “My brother’s fight is not over,” Rodrick Reed told the rally of some 100 people who gathered in front of the Texas governor’s mansion Nov 17. They were celebrating a stay of execution won by his brother Rodney two days earlier, five days before the state had scheduled to execute him by lethal injection.

“We are fighting for full exoneration,” Reed said. “We are fighting for his freedom. Strap your boots up tight and get ready to fight.”

The campaign to stop the execution and free Rodney Reed, who has been on death row for more than 20 years, has gained real momentum. Protests have been held at the state Capitol here and in Reed’s hometown of Bastrop. Support for the case has come from state politicians from both parties and celebrities across the country, including Oprah Winfrey, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and many more.

The public campaign forced the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to block the execution and send Reed’s case back to Bastrop County, where he was originally tried, to examine new evidence.

“We had witnesses that were intimidated, but now it’s a new day,” Sandra Reed, Rodney’s mother, told KEYE-TV. “The truth will and shall set him free.”

“I see people here today that have been active in this case for decades and I see a lot of new faces,” Randi Hensley from The Abolitionist organization told the rally. “What you did matters.”

Carmen Pagliari told the Militant that she “heard about this case a month ago and began to read about it and got more passionate for justice for Reed,” she said. “I have always been against the death penalty.”

End the death penalty!

“My brother Luis Castro Perez is on death row for something he didn’t do,” Delia Perez Meyer told the crowd. “Thank you for being part of this fight for Rodney Reed. There have been 565 executions [since 1982] in Texas, we don’t want any more.”

There are now 217 inmates in Texas on death row.

“The district attorney must not keep continuing to play political football to keep this man incarcerated,” Mark Clements, who won his freedom after being framed up by Chicago cops and spending years in prison, told the crowd.

Reed, who is African American, was convicted by an all-white jury in 1998 for the rape and murder two years earlier of 19-year-old Stacey Stites, a cashier in Bastrop. Reed, who was seeing Stites, has always maintained his innocence. There is growing evidence that Stites was killed by former cop Jimmy Fennell Jr.

The state has repeatedly refused to order DNA testing of the belt that was used to strangle Stites and other crime scene evidence. “Test the DNA” is a popular chant at protests demanding Reed be freed.

Gerardo Sanchez Corona, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Senate from Texas, attended the Nov. 17 action.

“The case of Rodney Reed is one more example of how the rulers use the death penalty to scare working people,” Sanchez Corona said to applause at a Nov. 14 protest. “They don’t have any solutions to the economic, moral and political crisis of the capitalist system. The rulers fear the working class when we stand up and fight. This is why we need to build the labor movement and continue the fight to abolish the death penalty and free Rodney Reed.”

Another round of actions demanding Rodney Reed’s exoneration were announced for Dec. 22.