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U.S. Supreme Court sides with Rodney Reed on request for DNA evidence

A group of demonstrators holding signs saying Rodney Reed is innocent with the Capitol dome in the background.
Julia Reihs
Hundreds of people demonstrated outside the governor's mansion in 2019, demanding Gov. Greg Abbott stop the execution of Rodney Reed.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared the way for death row inmate Rodney Reed to seek evidence he argues would prove his innocence, rejecting Texas' claim that he took too long to challenge state DNA procedures.

Reed was convicted of murder in the 1996 death of Stacey Stites in Bastrop County. He said the two were having affair and suggested Stites' fiancé killed her when he learned of the relationship.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld Reed's conviction and death sentence. Reed then filed a motion requesting DNA testing on the evidence, including the belt used to strangle Stites. The Texas trial court rejected the motion, arguing in part that the evidence had not been adequately preserved. The state appeals court affirmed and later denied Reed's motion for a rehearing.

Reed then sued in federal court, arguing Texas DNA evidence law failed to provide him due process. The court dismissed the claim, and the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed on the grounds the claim was filed too late.

The Supreme Court ruled the statute of limitations didn’t start running until the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals denied Reed’s motion for a rehearing, however, so he filed it in time.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh issued the 6-3 opinion, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Amy Coney Barrett and Ketanji Brown Jackson. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the dissenting opinion, saying federal district courts lack jurisdiction to review state-court judgments.

Trey Shaar is an All Things Considered producer, reporter and host. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @treyshaar.
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