A Bastrop County, Texas, judge has recommended that death row inmate Rodney Reed not get a new trial, according to court documents.
“The Court has extensively considered the entire record of this case from its trial through the 10 day evidentiary hearing, at which the court was able to observe witnesses and assess their credibility concerning Applicant’s claims. This court recommends that relief sought by the Applicant be denied,” the recommendation signed by Judge J.D. Langley on Sunday said.
“Applicant has not proven by clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable juror would have convicted him of capital murder,” Langley wrote. “Applicant has not proven by clear and convincing evidence that he is actually innocent.”
Reed, who was sentenced to death more than 20 years ago for the assault, rape, and strangling of 19-year-old Stacey Stites, has maintained his innocence.
Reed, who is Black, was convicted by an all-White jury, according to the Innocence Project, a legal organization that helps inmates prove their innocence through DNA tests.
The group has said the murder weapon was never tested for DNA evidence, that forensic experts admitted to errors in their testimony, and that a former prison inmate claims someone else confessed to the murder that sent Reed to prison, among other exonerating claims.
The case has united lawmakers, religious leaders, and celebrities such as Oprah, Kim Kardashian West and Rihanna in Reed’s defense.
In 2019, Reed was granted a stay of execution just days before his scheduled execution date of November 20, 2019. The stay meant the case would go back to a state judge in Bastrop County, where Reed was convicted.
Since Reed’s 1998 trial, “substantial evidence exonerates Rodney,” the Innocence Project said, in July.
“Rodney Reed’s legal team presented its case that Mr. Reed deserves a new trial in light of newly discovered evidence that supports his innocence claim. At the hearing before District Judge J.D. Langley, his legal team also presented evidence that prosecutors had withheld evidence and experts had given misleading testimony at Mr. Reed’s original trial in 1998,” the Innocence Project said.
Langley’s recommendation now goes back to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which will decide whether Reed should be granted a new trial.
CNN has reached out to the Innocence Project for comment on Langley’s recommendation.
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