TX Supreme Court tosses Rodney Reed’s latest attempt to have judge removed

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FILE – In this Oct. 13, 2017, file photo, death row inmate Rodney Reed waves to his family in the Bastrop County District Court in Bastrop, Texas. Supporters for Reed, who’s facing lethal injection in less than two weeks for a murder he says he didn’t commit, are mounting a final push in the courts and on social media to stop his execution, which is being called into question by lawmakers, pastors, celebrities and the European Union. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP, File)

BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) — The Texas Supreme Court didn’t take the time to write up its reasons for denying Rodney Reed’s request to have his latest judge removed from his case. The court publicly announced its decision Friday in a list of published orders.

Reed’s case showed up on page seven of an 8 page-long list of orders. Reed’s case is listed under a section titled “The following petitions for Writ of Mandamus are denied.”

Reed’s now on his third post-conviction judge since a Bastrop County jury sentenced him to death in the 1996 rape of murder of Stacy Stites. In 2014, the judge overseeing Reed’s appeal, Reva Towslee-Corbett, removed herself from his case because her father was Reed’s trial judge.

Towslee-Corbett would have had to issue rulings on challenges to her father’s decisions had she remained on Reed’s case.

Retired District Court Judge Doug Shaver was assigned to Reed’s case in 2014. Shaver signed Reed’s death warrant on July 23, 2019. Just 17 days later, Shaver sent an email to his boss expressing concerns over his own ability to preside over cases.

“I believe that I am still in excess condition mentally and physical [sic]. The problem is that I simply have been lucky to get old, I have been in fear that I would or would not do something that could affect the outcome of some important legal matter,” Shaver wrote in that Aug. 9, 2019 email.

That same day, Shaver told the TX Supreme Court he was retiring. But, it wasn’t until November 2019 that Shaver’s boss, Second Administrative Judicial Region Presiding Judge OIen Underwood, informed the public that Shaver had retired.

Reed’s execution was set for Nov. 20, 2019 but the state appeals court granted a stay so Reed’s side could be heard on new evidence it claims to have that would exonerate Reed.

On Nov. 21, 2019, Underwood appointed retired District Court Judge J.D. Langley to replace Shaver. Reed’s side wanted Judge Carson Campbell, Bastrop County’s elected judge, to preside over the Reed case. In a hearing before Langley in January, Langley denied Reed’s lawyer’s request to remove himself from the case.

On Feb. 20, 2020, Reed’s legal team filed a 287-page document, asking the Texas Supreme Court to have Langley removed from the case and appoint Campbell. Reed’s attorneys asked for oral arguments in the case, but the court never allowed those in-person arguments. Reed and prosecutors filed written arguments.

The Bastrop County District Attorney filed its response on April 27. Now, 46 days later, the Supreme Court denied Reed’s request to decide whether Langley should be removed or to appoint Campbell.

There is still unfinished business in Reed’s appeal before Langley from the January hearing. Reed’s side wants Langley to decide whether prosecutors kept evidence from Reed that would have helped exonerate him during his 1998 trial, whether prosecutors presented false testimony to the jury in Reed’s trial and whether Reed’s trial lawyers were ineffective.

Reed’s side also argued in the appeals court pleading that the previous judge in the case, Judge Doug Shaver, was not legally appointed. The lawyers argued Shaver’s appointment in 2014 was for a limited time and was never renewed by the time Shaver signed Reed’s death warrant in July 2019.

Throughout the 20-plus years of twist and turns in the case, Reed has maintained his innocence.

“Rodney’s innocent,” Reed’s attorney Andrew MacRae told KXAN after the January hearing in Bastrop. “We’re going to prove that and there’s a mountain of evidence that shows not just his innocence, but also the guilt of who did it.”

But Stites’ family maintains Reed is the killer.

The next hearing in the Reed appeal is set for September in Bastrop before Judge Langley.

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