The Supreme Court cleared the way for Texas death row inmate Rodney Reed to seek post-conviction DNA evidence to try proving his innocence. Reed claims an all-White jury wrongly convicted him of killing of Stacey Stites, a 19-year-old White woman, in Texas in 1998. Texas had argued that he had waited too long to bring his challenge to the state’s DNA procedures in federal court. The Supreme Court disagreed, CNN reports. Now, he can go to a federal court to make his claim. Justice Brett Kavanaugh delivered the opinion for a 6-3 court, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Amy Coney Barrett and Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Texas courts had rejected several Reed appeals. Celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Rihanna have expressed support, signing a petition asking the state to halt his execution. The case puts a new focus on the testing of DNA crime-scene evidence and when an inmate can make a claim to access the technology in a plea of innocence. To date, 375 people in the U.S. have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 21 who served time on death row, according to the Innocence Project, which represents Reed and others seeking post-conviction DNA testing to prove their innocence. Kavanaugh said Reed could make the claim after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied his request for rehearing. “Significant systemic benefits ensue from starting the statute of limitations clock when the state litigation in DNA testing cases like Reed’s has concluded,” Kavanaugh said. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented. Alito said Reed should have acted more quickly to bring his appeal. “Instead,” Alito wrote, “he waited until an execution date was set.”