BASTROP COUNTY, Texas — A Central Texas man who's on death row for murder appeared in a Bastrop County courtroom on Friday morning. It's all part of an effort to stop his execution.

Rodney Reed, 52, was convicted in 1998 for the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites.

Reed was set to be executed in November, but the Texas Court of Appeals granted him a stay of execution and ruled to have a judge review claims of new evidence.

Back in December, the court also denied his request for this new judge to replace retired District Court Judge J.D. Langley. Langley was recently assigned to the case in place of Judge Doug Shaver. Shaver is the person who signed Reed's execution order in July of 2019.

The death row inmate was in the courtroom on Friday as his attorneys called for a new judge to be appointed to his case. Reed's team wants the elected 21st District Court Judge Carson Campbell to preside over the proceedings.

However, their request was denied by Judge Langley.

"What I am concerned about is the Attorney General's Office and the Bastrop DA is getting a judge that's halfway across the state when this happened here in Bastrop," said Roderick Reed outside ahead of the decision. "Bastrop knows about this case and it should be decided by a judge in our own community, a judge that we voted and elected in."

Judge Langley currently sits in the 85th Judicial District Court in Brazos County, about 75 miles away.

Judge Langley did not allow cameras into the courtroom, but reporters were. Rodney Reed's brother along with other family members and friends were there for the hearing, which lasted just under a half hour. 

Stacey Stites's sister and other family members were also there. Both families sat in opposite sections of the courtroom. 

Reed did not say much throughout the hearing. At the beginning, Reed greeted the judge saying, "Good afternoon." At the end, Reed's family members called out to him, telling him they loved him. Reed responded, "Love you all." 

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Reed and his family have always maintained that he's innocent, but prosecutors are standing by the guilty verdict.

"It’s always heartbreaking. You know, this is the man that took my sister’s life," said Debra Oliver, Stacey Stites's sister. “We are definitely ready for this to be over. It’s been a long process. She was only alive for 19 years; we’ve dealt with this for almost 24. It’s time for justice to be served."

Reed's family and attorney are still hopeful for the future. 

"We’ve got to regroup and figure out what our next step is in terms of Judge Langley’s ruling and then we’re going to have to regroup in another way and make sure we get all of our witnesses together and our evidence together for the next hearing because Rodney’s innocent," said Andrew MacRae, the new lead attorney for Reed. 

According to MacRae, the next significant date is March 16, which is the State's deadline to respond to the habeas petition, which was filed in November.

"There is a lot of work to be done," said Rodrick Reed. "Don't get it twisted by any means. We still have a long journey ahead of us."

Numerous appeals court decisions have gone in the state's favor, including a U.S. Supreme Court decision not to review Rodney Reed's case before his execution date.

Rodney Reed eventually got granted his stay of execution based on these three things:

  • His innocence claim
  • Possible false testimony in court
  • Not all evidence was brought to the defense

Rodney Reed's court session started Friday afternoon around 1:30 p.m. at the Bastrop County Law Enforcement Center.

WATCH: KVUE Crime Files: The Case of Rodney Reed

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