AUSTIN, Texas — On Monday, the United States Supreme Court denied Rodney Reed's petition for a writ of certiorari, which would have allowed the court to hear the case.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the court's announcement. Reed's appeal was based on the legal proceedings of his eighth and ninth writ of habeas corpus applications, which are used to seek relief from a final felony conviction.
Reed is currently seeking his tenth state habeas application, according to Justice Sotomayor.
The Supreme Court's decision to deny Reed's petition does not close the doors on future decisions regarding Reed's innocence.
A Bastrop trial court still needs to hear his case, after an order from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in November.
"It goes without saying that, should the Texas courts deny Reed relief in his tenth state habeas proceeding, today's decision to decline review in no way prejudices Reed's ability to seek review of that hypothetical future decision," wrote the justice.
Justice Sotomayor added that habeas courts should evaluate all available evidence when dealing with actual-innocence claims, including evidence presented in prior habeas applications.
"While the Court today declines to review the instant petition, it of course does not pass on the merits of Reed’s innocence or close the door to future review," said Justice Sotomayor. "In my view, there is no escaping the pall of uncertainty over Reed’s conviction. Nor is there any denying the irreversible consequence of setting that uncertainty aside. But I remain hopeful that available state processes will take care to ensure full and fair consideration of Reed’s innocence – and will not allow the most permanent of consequences to weigh on the Nation’s conscience while Reed’s conviction remains so mired in doubt."
Reed was convicted in 1998 for the rape and murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites but has maintained his innocence ever since.
Reed was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Nov. 20, 2019, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued an indefinite stay of execution on Nov. 15, 2019.
Since his conviction, new evidence has come forward and some expert witnesses have retracted their statements. Reed and his legal defense have said these developments completely exonerate him of the crime.
If the Texas courts decide Reed is not innocent, he could appeal the decision again with the U.S. Supreme Court.
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