Free Rodney Reed

The State of Texas plans to execute Rodney Reed in less than two weeks from now, on November 19th. He has been languishing on the state’s death row for 21 years, convicted for a murder that I – and countless others  – believe he didn’t commit.

The details of Rodney’s case, coupled with new evidence that has emerged over the years, really leave no other conclusion: he’s been the victim of an egregious miscarriage of justice. And so I join thousands in Texas and elsewhere that are calling on Texas Governor Abbott to grant a stay of this execution, review all the evidence, and eventually grant Rodney a new trial.

I have long believed that the death penalty is barbaric and inhumane under any circumstances and that it should have no place in modern societies. Study after study has shown that it doesn’t deter violent crime, and it quite often fails to deliver the closure that victims’ families need and deserve. It is also an enormous waste of taxpayer money, as the judicial machinery of death costs states millions that could be spent much more effectively elsewhere. There are alternatives to capital punishment that keep the public safe and violent criminals off the street. 

But Rodney Reed is not a violent criminal. Instead, his case once again exposes how easy it is for a criminal justice system to turn into a system of criminal injustice. And he’s not alone. One look at the available data shows that capital punishment in the US disproportionately targets minorities and the poor. It’s alarming to see just how many times innocent people end up on death row, with potentially exonerating evidence being withheld at trial or later. 

The Death Penalty Information Center has tracked a staggering total of 166 exonerations since 1973, that’s 166 death row prisoners who have been set free and cleared of all charges against them. With figures like these, I often wonder just how many innocent people have been executed. The risk appears far too great to simply continue with business as usual. 

Rodney Reed’s ordeal reminds me of the case of Anthony Ray Hinton, who spent 30 years on Alabama’s death row, convicted of a crime that he didn’t commit – the victim of a deeply and often unapologetically racist criminal justice system. It took an enormous effort and the perseverance of a brilliant human rights lawyer like Bryan Stevenson to set Ray free.

I also think of Richard Glossip in Oklahoma, who has had an execution date set three times, coming within minutes of lethal injection the last time around. Richard continues to sit on Oklahoma’s death row, even though he, too, has presented a very convincing case for exoneration, but remains trapped in what is quite literally a judicial death spiral.

The list goes on and on. And as credible claims of innocence mount, it is worth considering whether a practice so fundamentally flawed should continue. I think it’s time to end the death penalty once and for all.

Please sign the petition for Rodney Reed.   

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