Rodney Reed Should not be Executed
Christi: Thirty-five minutes past the hour now. We have several big stories for you in today’s legal brief, including growing calls to spare the life of a Texas death row inmate. Now, here’s the thing. Rodney Reed has been on death row for more than 20 years. He’s scheduled to die on November 20th, but lawmakers and celebrities are calling for a second look at his case.
Prosecutors say the evidence is overwhelming that he murdered 19-year old Stacey Stites, but Reed’s advocates argue he didn’t get a fair trial, pointing out that he was convicted by an all-white jury. Kim Kardashian West and Rihanna are among the celebrities calling for the governor of Texas to spare his life. And more than two million people have signed a petition online.
Criminal defense and constitutional attorney Page Pate with us here. And I understand there’s this bipartisan of 26 Texas lawmakers that’s asking the governor to delay the execution.
Christi: Do you expect that to happen based on what they’re saying? Because there’s DNA questions here, too, right?
Page: Well, there is. There is not a lot of evidence that he committed this crime. There’s a lot of evidence that he had a consensual relationship with her. The DNA evidence only points to that. It does not point to him as the actual murderer.
Governor Abbott of Texas does have the opportunity, under Texas law, to stop it, to say, “Look, for 30 days I’m gonna put a hold on this execution, I’m gonna stay it, allow the Board of Pardons and Parole,” the clemency folks in Texas, “to look at the case and decide if we want to grant him clemency.” To move forward with the execution at this point, with all of these questions out there, with all of this new evidence, just seems really irresponsible.
Christi: Yeah, because you’re not talking about keeping somebody in prison for the rest of your life. You’re talking about killing them.
Page: That’s right. You can’t undo that once that sentence is carried out.
Christi: So, is there any DNA evidence that could claim him innocent?
Page: I don’t think so. I think what we have in this case is clear evidence that someone else committed the crime. Apparently, there was an individual who had a relationship with this woman at the time. He was upset that she had a relationship with Mr. Reed. He had, after that point, been convicted of another sexual assault, sentenced to 10 years in prison. All of that evidence pointed to him as the initial suspect, but that didn’t come out during the trial.
And so, people have said, “Look, for him to have a fair trial, for Mr. Reed to actually have the opportunity to show that there is evidence that someone else did this, we need to put a hold on this and allow him to go back to court.”
Christi: All right. We’ll see what happens. Let’s talk about the college wrestling referee who now says he complained to Ohio State’s wrestling coaches about sexual misconduct by one of the athletic department’s doctors, but they did nothing about it, he says. One of the coaches at the time was current Congressman Jim Jordan. The referee is at least the second person to publicly say he directly told Jordan about alleged inappropriate behavior by Dr. Richard Strauss.
Congressman Jordan has denied knowing about any of the allegations. I know the lawsuit notes Jordan isn’t even listed, really, as one of the OSU employees with authority to take corrective action, but does that mean anything for Jordan at this point?
Page: I don’t think so. I mean, hundreds of people have now come forward and said that they were abused by Dr. Strauss. It is unimaginable that the people who were close to the athletic department, including someone like Mr. Jordan who was an assistant wrestling coach, just didn’t know about it. I mean, it’s just hard to believe.
And in fact, Ohio State had an independent investigation done, and that investigation found that people within the administration should have known about it, should have done something about it. So there are a number of lawsuits that eventually will work their way through the courts and I…
Christi: And they’re strong?
Page: Yes, absolutely. And they’ve claimed Title IX violations, which, in a sexual assault case, may seem a little odd. But Title IX protects students from sexual harassment. And that’s exactly what these allegations are about.
Christi: And we should note that the doctor actually committed suicide, I think…
Page: Yeah, 2005.
Christi: …back in 2005.
Christi: Yeah. Let’s talk real quickly, too, about this one. Ten years and an order to pay more than $270,000 in restitution. This is the sentence handed down to a restaurant manager in South Carolina convicted of beating and torturing a black, intellectually disabled employee. Now, the cruelty didn’t end there.
Bobby Paul Edwards pleaded guilty to forcing his employee to work more than 100 hours a week without pay, as physical and verbal abuse went on. I mean, it’s a disgusting crime, Page, when you look at this and you think about what this poor person went through. Is 10 years enough? That’s the question a lot of people are asking.
Page: Well, I mean, the judge certainly had the discretion to give that sentence. That was a sentence that was legal in the case. But appropriate, I think given these facts, I mean, it sounds like slavery. It sounds like a horrible crime. In South Carolina, a crime like this, aggravated assault, can carry a much tougher sentence than what he received. So I am somewhat surprised by that.
Many people will say this is the type of case where we should support jury sentencing. Have the case go to trial. Then let a group of jurors, people from the community, decide what the sentence should be. That still happens in Texas. Not in South Carolina.
Christi: All right. Page Pate, always appreciate your insight.
Page: Thank you, Christi.
Christi: Thank you for being here.
Page Pate is an accomplished trial lawyer with over 25 years of experience in criminal defense, civil litigation, and whistleblower representation. Page is listed in The Best Lawyers in America, Top 100 Lawyers by The National Trial Lawyers, and named to the list of Super Lawyers for the past 15 consecutive years. Page is a frequent expert legal analyst for local and national media and has served as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Georgia Law School. Read Page’s reviews on AVVO. Follow Page on Twitter @pagepate and on Linkedin.