U.S. Court of Appeals for Fifth Circuit Rules Against Murder Defendant Because of Late Filing

Rodney Reed

By Lovepreet Dhinsa

NEW ORLEANS, LA – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled against defendant Rodney Reed for a crime he claims he did commit – the court is fully aware of evidence being withheld from the defendant by the State of Texas, but ruled Reed didn’t file the action in a timely fashion.

Defendant Rodney Reed was convicted of capital murder in 1998, after which he sought multiple forms of post-conviction relief. Reed applied for post-conviction DNA testing, which was denied by the Texas state courts.

Reed then brought a lawsuit against certain Texas officials, challenging the constitutionality of holding the items he wishes to test for DNA.

In Reed v. State of Texas (1996), the pleading outlines how Stacy Stites was reported missing on April 23, 1996 when she did not attend her grocery store shift. Her body was found later on a backroad in Bastrop County, Texas.

Stites was engaged to a police officer in Giddings, Texas at that time, and they shared his red truck, which Stites was to take to work that day. The truck was found in the parking lot of Bastrop High School, with half of Stites’ belt in the trunk, which was later determined to be the weapon that Stites was strangled with.

The medical examiners also found remnants of sperm inside Stites’s body, which led them to believe that Stites had been sexually assaulted before being murdered. The sperm was not matched to anyone within the area for an entire year, before they found that it matched Reed’s genetic profile.

Shortly after, Reed was charged and convicted with the murder of Stites. He alleged that he and Stites had a secret sexual relationship while Stites was engaged to the officer; however, the jury rejected this defense and convicted him.

Upon filing two habeas petitions in state courts and being rejected, Reed filed a third petition in federal court, which he was also denied afterwards. In June 2018, Reed filed for a certiorari from the Supreme Court, but was denied.

Reed requested declaratory relief from the district court, alleging that his first, fourth, fifth, and eighth amendment rights were being infringed upon. The district court denied all of Reed’s claims, to which Reed then attempted to appeal the district court’s decision in the Fifth Court of Appeals.

When the case came in front of the Fifth Court of Appeals, there were questions about if this fell within their jurisdiction, which it was later determined that it did because Reed was not appealing against the state court’s decision, but the constitutionality aspect of it.

The question now is whether Reed was denied sufficient evidence for his case and the timeline of when he was aware that he was being denied this information.

Reed alleges that he had the necessary information to know his rights were being infringed upon when the trial court denied his motion for post-conviction relief. This would be in November 2014.

However, since November 2014, Reed had the necessary information to know whether his rights were being infringed upon. However, Reed made the mistake of waiting before he filed a claim for the Supreme Court to consider his case.

The Fifth Court of Appeals alleges that Reed did have the opportunity to bring forth his case sooner, five years earlier, and that his claim is time-barred.

It is not clear the reason behind Reed’s lack of timeliness, but the Court still finds his claim invalid. Because of the lack of timeliness, Reed’s case was denied in the Fifth Court of Appeals.

Lovepreet Dhinsa is a junior undergraduate student at the University of San Francisco, pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Politics with a minor in Legal Studies. She has a passion for criminal defense law, and strives to go to law school to fight for indigent clients. As such, she is also involved in her university’s mock trial program and student government.


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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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