Bastrop, Texas — After Texas death row prisoner Rodney Reed’s family and supporters rallied and marched at the Bastrop County Courthouse and then took over Main Street for an impromptu march on July 24, they met in a community park to make more plans to stop Reed’s scheduled execution date of Jan. 14, 2015.
The goals of the trip to Bastrop were to demand that District Attorney Bryan Goertz drop the execution date and test all the crime scene evidence for DNA.
“By the time we left Bastrop, we were optimistic that we can stop this miscarriage of justice,” said Allison Hubbard, a member of the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement.
The day began with a rally that heard encouraging words from Sandra Reed, Rodney Reed’s mother, who told the crowd: “We are not giving up! They know Rodney is innocent and so do we. We will fight until my son is home with us. This district attorney needs to withdraw the date and decide to test all the evidence so Rodney’s innocence can be proven.”
Supporters included the spouse and mother of Juan Balderas, sent to death row in March after a farce of a trial in Houston. His mother, Maria Reyes, shared in Spanish that as a mother she knew what Reed’s mother was feeling, but “together we can fight for what is right.” Balderas’ spouse, Yancy Escobar, translated for her.
Another man who fought to prove his innocence for many years is Hank Skinner, who finally got some DNA testing even though the crucial piece of evidence had “disappeared.” His spouse, Sandrine Ageorges-Skinner, spoke about how having a decent judge is crucial to receiving justice.
Visiting judge sets execution date
Just one week earlier, visiting Judge Doug Shaver callously set an execution date for Reed even though both the prosecutors and defense agreed to DNA testing. Now Reed must live on the “Death Watch” section of an already repressive and isolated death row.
Roderick Reed, one of Rodney’s five brothers, told the demonstrators at the rally that the corrupt system must be replaced with justice. He declared, ”Let’s march on Main Street!” Shoppers in the quaint specialty stores that have become a tourist attraction in this small town just 30 minutes from the state capital came out to see the protest with its banners and signs held high, and many indicated their support. There were resounding cheers and words of encouragement from onlookers, many of whom were familiar with the Reed case.
Reed, who is African American, was sent to death row in 1998 for the crime of raping and killing Stacy Stites, a young woman he was having a secret affair with. Stites was white. The only physical evidence connecting him to Stites’ murder was a semen sample because he had a consensual sexual relationship with her. There were no fingerprints in her vehicle, no murder weapon or other evidence. Reed was tried by an all-white jury from this small town, which still has a monument to “Confederate heroes [sic]” on the courthouse lawn.
After the successful morning protests, bolstered family members and supporters met in the park for lunch and to strategize further activities. Film showings of “State v. Reed” in Houston, attending the prison board meeting in late August and holding a community meeting in Austin were put on the map.
The Jim Crow justice system in Bastrop is beginning to crumble. More and more people do not want to have a Troy Davis in Texas. Just a few days before this event, eight retired federal and state judges filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court asking them to accept the appeal from Reed and return his case to trial court.
Bastrop District Attorney Goertz, Judge Doug Shaver and the cops are sticking to their racist application of what they call justice. But those supporting Reed are determined to have his name added to the growing list at the National Registry of Exonerations so he can come home to his community.
Current information can be found at facebook.com/texasinjustice.