Rodney Reed death sentence causes uproar after 20 years

By Victoria Gill-Gomez

Opinion Editor

Since 1996, Rodney Reed has been on death row for the murder of Stacey Stites, whom he was having a private relationship with despite her engagement to Jimmy Fennell. Reed was set to be executed on Nov. 20.

A few weeks prior to this date, uproar on social media — especially Twitter — has spotlighted the lack of ethics in Reed’s trial. Reed has not only drawn attention from citzens outside of the state of Texas, but also celebrities like Kim Kardashian West and Rihanna, to plead for a retrial.

“You can’t put somebody to death with all these questions,” Heather Stobbs, cousin of the victim, said in an NBC interview.

Beyond that, the debate over the death penalty and other forms of capital punishment has been rehashed. I do not find justice in this sentencing. Even more so when the recent evidence brought up to the Texas court system has only proven Reed’s innocence. However, Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, refused to change the execution sentencing. In his almost five years as governor, Abbott has only stopped one execution out of the 47 that went through.

According to The New York Times, “Texas executes far more people than any other state, including seven so far this year.”

While many believe that this sentence will bring closure to the victim’s family, the death penalty looks like another form of revenge. Justice is made out of mercy and compassion for all involved. The death penalty, for the accused at least, looks like an easy way out for them. There is no sense of closure. This is not some bloody Greek tragedy.

Capital punishment has been taken away from many state legislations. This past year the state of Washington abolished their laws surrounding it.

According to Amnesty International data for 2018, the United States is still in the top 10 countries in the world that carries out the most executions. This puts the country alongside those who have the most severe dictatorships in the world like China and Saudi Arabia.

“The state of Texas nearly doubled its figure compared to 2017 (from 7 to 13), accounting for just over half of the country’s total,” stated on the Amnesty International website.

Reed’s evidence comes from anonymous persons who knew him and Fennell and their separate relationships with Stites. The murder weapon was never tested for DNA, and the DNA that pinned Reed for rape was actually just the result of a consensual relationship. There have also been errors in the forensic testimony that wants to be redacted because of this but is not allowed.

All of this points to the thought that Rodney Reed is guilty for being a black man in a relationship with a white woman. There has been a racist attitude towards this case to for years.

“I don’t think it’s a question of whether he’s guilty or not guilty,” television host Dr. Phil McGraw said to The New York Times. “I think the question is whether he had a full trial, with a full airing of all the evidence. I think the answer to that question, in my opinion, is not just no, but hell, no.”

While Texas officials announced on Nov. 15 that evidence was sent back to trial court for review and no longer has an execution date due to all this new evidence, that does not excuse the fact that our national laws do not do enough to protect racially profiled individuals. There are no safeguards for minorities in the justice system. This has led to an unjustifiable number of deaths for innocent people, which is not hard to find on a Google search. There is no excuse for this loss of life.

 Nowadays, the United States’ judiciary system, especially once those individuals are already in prison, are basically guilty until proven innocent. Reed is no different.

“But the sad fact of the matter is that many Americans simply don’t care about how we are viewed abroad. Some of our ‘unique’ ideas on liberty and personal freedom don’t carry over to every other liberal democracy in the history of the world,” 2013 graduate Chris Cronin wrote in a 2013 Elm article.

If you have not been aware of this case until now, I implore you to stay informed for the sake of justice and thoughtfulness.

An earlier version of this article stated that Rodney Reed had been granted a new trial. This was an error; the evidence has been sent back to trial court for review.

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