Rodney Reed's supporters turn up the heat

A Texas-sized travesty of justice is finally moving into the spotlight, reports Alan Maass.

Death penalty opponents demand justice for Rodney Reed, on death row in TexasDeath penalty opponents demand justice for Rodney Reed, on death row in Texas

AN INNOCENT man on Texas death row is fighting for his life, and his family, friends and supporters are moving into action with a less than two weeks to go before his scheduled execution date of March 5.

All eyes are now on the state capital of Austin, where a Rally for Justice for Rodney Reed will take place at 2 p.m. outside the Capitol building on Saturday, February 21. Rodney's brother Rodrick Reed and other family members will join other speakers, including exonerated former prisoners Shujaa Graham and Mark Clements, other family members of prisoners and police violence victims, clergy and more. The rally will be followed by a march to the governor's mansion to show the man whose name is on the execution order that Rodney has wide support.

The Rally for Justice will follow a Black Lives Matter: Dirge March to protest growing injustices all over the nation--participants will gather at 11:30 a.m. at 7th Street and Interstate 35 outside the headquarters of the Austin Police Department.

The day before, Friday, February 20, is another national call-in day--supporters are asked to call Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to urge that Rodney be granted clemency when his case is considered before the execution date.

What you can do

Rodney Reed's family and supporters are asking everyone who cares about justice to step up their efforts for Rodney now. You can:

-- Attend a Rally for Justice for Rodney Reed in Austin, Texas. Gather at 2 p.m. on Saturday, February 21, outside the Texas Capitol building.

-- Participate in a National Call-In Day. Telephone Texas Gov. Greg Abbot at 1-512-463-1782 and the Board of Pardons and Paroles Clemency Section at 1-512-406-5852 and ask that Rodney be granted clemency and given a chance to present evidence of his innocence.

-- Collect clemency letters and signatures. Click here to download a sample clemency letter and find instructions on how to use it. You can find the online petition for Rodney at change.org. Download a paper petition here. The Campaign to End the Death Penalty also has an informational fact sheet on Rodney's case. Think about how you can use these materials at your school, church or community event.

-- Stay updated about Rodney's case through social media. Follow the Justice for Rodney Reed campaign on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram. Share your own solidarity photo with us and tag it #Justice4Rodney

For more action items and information visit the Free Rodney Reed website and the Campaign to End the Death Penalty website.

Rodney shouldn't have to rely on clemency--there is compelling evidence, never properly evaluated or heard in any court, that Rodney is innocent; DNA material that has never been tested to see what it would show; and still more evidence pointing to another perpetrator of the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites in Bastrop, Texas.

All this only highlights the gross miscarriages of justice that landed Rodney on death row--and kept him there all these years. He was singled out by police and prosecutors who dropped their scrutiny of the initial main suspect to accuse a Black man of murdering a white woman. The jury that found him guilty was all white. And in the nearly 17 years since that conviction, courts at every level have rejected Rodney's pleas for all the evidence in his case to be heard and examined.

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FORTUNATELY, THERE are developments on a number of fronts that will put Rodney's case in the national spotlight as the execution date approaches. From protests and actions at the grassroots to new legal filings and media coverage, the struggle is heating up just when we need it to come to a boil.

On February 16, Reed's case was the subject of a two-hour season premiere episode of A&E's Dead Again--which means millions of people are now familiar with the injustices Rodney has endured. Some of the same evidence will be examined on a coming segment of All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC.

Veteran investigators working for the show made a number of findings that will have a major impact on a new habeas appeal filed by Rodney's lawyers earlier in February. As Jordan Smith wrote for the Intercept, the revelations include medical testimony that the time of Stacey Stites' death was likely hours before the 3 a.m. time that was the basis of the prosecution's theory of the crime. The new appeal includes other expert testimony and information from a new witness that Stites and Reed had been involved in a relationship.

As Lily Hughes of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty wrote in a circular for activists:

The legal fireworks were accompanied by a series of events in Austin and in Bastrop over the last week. A rally on [February 13] in Bastrop called on the district attorney to meet with Reed's family and advocates, and then take action to help bring about a new trial. [The next day], campaigners held a Valentine's Day event calling on Governor Gregg Abbott to "Have a Heart" and do the right thing in Rodney's case.

On [February 15], a coalition of groups and clergy welcomed Sister Helen Prejean to a meeting at the local Friends Meeting of Austin. Sister Helen spoke alongside Rodrick Reed...and Heather Stobbs, the cousin of Stacey Stites, the victim in the case.

These important developments come not a moment too soon. The race is on to prevent a victim of racism, police abuse and legal injustice from becoming of victim of state-sanctioned murder--and everyone who cares about the struggle for social justice needs to get involved.