Unusual misstep in Rodney Reed case prompts request for new judge

Rodney Reed

BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) — Rodney Reed wants a new judge to potentially review his request for DNA testing, after an assigned judge appears to have made an “inexplicable” error by simultaneously signing and adopting two opposing orders, according to Reed’s attorney.

Assigned Senior Judge Doug Shaver’s apparent mistake relates to Reed’s request for post-conviction DNA testing on multiple pieces of evidence, which Reed’s attorneys say could help exonerate the death-row inmate. A Bastrop jury sentenced Reed to death for the 1996 killing of Stacey Stites. She was found strangled and sexually assaulted on the side of a road outside Bastrop.

The state has opposed further DNA testing. The latest issue arose after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals sent the issue back to Shaver and asked him to make additional findings on Reed’s appeal for post-conviction DNA testing.

To argue their cases, both the state and Reed submitted findings of fact and conclusions to Shaver. The state argued against further DNA testing, and Reed argued for it. On Sept. 9, Shaver signed both the state’s facts and conclusions against DNA testing, as well as Reed’s facts and conclusions for DNA testing.

“This is extremely irregular, and frankly alarming, that a judge would make such an egregious error in a death penalty case. In my seventeen years practicing law, I’ve never seen a judge make a mistake like this,” said Benjet in an email. “None of the experienced lawyers and retired judges I’ve talked to about this had seen anything like it either.  It’s really inexplicable how a judge can make diametrically opposite rulings on the same issues, in the same case, at the same time.”

In light of Shaver signing both parties’ proposed findings, the state has asked the Court of Criminal Appeals to remand the issue back to the convicting court, so it “may clarify which of the parties’ findings — all of the State’s, all of Appellant’s, or certain findings from both — it intended to adopt as its own,” according to a state motion.

Reed’s attorneys have asked the Appeals court to make a decision on matter. If the Appeals court sends the issue back to the convicting court, Reed wants a new judge to be assigned.

“This court, the parties, and the public can no longer have confidence in Senior Judge Shaver’s continued assignment on this case,” Reed attorneys say in their opposition to the state’s motion to remand.

Reed has maintained his innocence since he was convicted in 1998. In 2015, the Appeals court paused Reed’s execution less than two weeks before it was set to occur.

Reed’s supporters say the state’s original case against Reed has been undermined by multiple new pieces of evidence introduced since his conviction.

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