UPDATE: The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has issued a stay of Rodney Reed’s execution.
The decision came hours after the the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole asked Republican Gov. Greg Abbott for a 120-day delay to his execution in response to a clemency application from Reed, whose lawyers says there is new evidence that could exonerate him.
The Innocence Project, which is providing Reed’s legal counsel and continued to seek clemency for him, celebrated the development in his case.
The court cited concealed information, false testimony and possible innocence in its last-minute decision to stay Reed’s death sentence, which has captured national attention in recent weeks with the help of vigils, protests and celebrities speaking out against his execution.
The development outweighs the parole board’s recommendation, removing Abbott from the equation.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Parole recommended to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday that Rodney Reed, the death row inmate whose guilt has been widely questioned in recent weeks, receive a 120-day reprieve on his upcoming execution.
The board’s unanimous recommendation comes in response to a clemency application from Reed asking for either a delay of his Nov. 20 execution or a commutation of his sentence. Though the board denied the latter, advocates calling on the state to reexamine Reed’s case celebrated the development.
“I have tears streaming down my cheeks,” Reed’s lawyer Andrew MacRae said in a statement to The New York Times. “I’m overwhelmed, but not yet ecstatic, because we have to wait for the governor to act. But assuming he approves this, I’m going to call Rodney’s mom, and that will be ecstatic.”
Abbott, whose state executes far more people than any other, has remained quiet on the demands from Reed’s legal team and supporters — as well as a bipartisan group of 42 Texas senators and representatives — to halt his execution. Abbott must now make a decision on the parole board’s recommendation.
Reed’s case has been in the national spotlight since last month when a host of celebrities, including Kim Kardashian West, Beyoncé and Meek Mill, began lobbying in his defense. In recent days, his family and other supporters have held a vigil for Reed outside the U.S. Supreme Court.
His lawyers say there is new evidence that could exonerate Reed, who has served more than two decades in prison for the 1996 sexual assault and murder of 20-year-old Stacey Stites in Bastrop, Texas.
Though investigators in the 1996 case found DNA from Reed’s semen on Stites’ body, Reed, a black man, maintains that he and Stites, a white woman, were in a consensual sexual relationship. The Innocence Project, which is serving as Reed’s legal representation, says it possesses new evidence proving that Stites’ fiance Jimmy Fennell was the one responsible for her death.
Abbott’s record on this issue is not in Reed’s favor. During his five years as governor, he’s only stopped one of the 47 executions he’s been asked to review. However, the pressure from activists, celebrities and bipartisan lawmakers have made this an unusually high profile case.