AUSTIN, TX (KXAN) – A new filing in Rodney Reed’s fight to stay alive shows the judge in Reed’s case is no longer serving as a judge in Texas. That new information is included in a filing sent to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Tuesday.
Judge Doug Shaver signed Reed’s death warrant in July 2019, then announced his retirement less than three weeks later. Shaver cited concerns over his own ability to preside over cases in an August 9 email Shaver sent to his boss.
Reed’s attorneys argued that Shaver did not have a lawful appointment when he signed Reed’s execution order in July. Reed’s side filed a motion on Nov. 4, asking Bastrop County Judge Carson Campbell to decide whether Shaver had the authority to sign the July execution order.
Questions over Shaver’s appointment surfaced after Reed’s side examined the 2014 order assigning Judge Shaver to the case. Shaver, who was a retired judge at the time, was assigned by Second Administrative Judicial Region Presiding Judge Olen Underwood to preside over Reed’s case in May 2014.
Underwood wrote to Shaver on May 28, 2014, telling him the assignment was for a single day hearing in the Reed case. That assignment was never renewed, which Reed’s legal team argued meant the assignment expired some time in 2014.
Reed’s attorneys filed a motion with Judge Campbell, asking him to decide whether Shaver’s appointment was unlawful and whether Shaver signing the July 2019 execution order should be voided.
Campbell set a hearing for Nov. 13, but the TX Court of Criminal Appeals abruptly canceled that hearing on Nov. 12, then ordered Shaver and Campbell to submit letter to the appeals court explaining what was going on.
Those letters were due to the appeals court by 4 p.m. today. Both Shaver and Campbell complied and submitted their letters Nov. 12.
JUDGE SHAVER ‘NO LONGER SITTING’
“After receiving the Motion and request, I received an email from the Assistant to Judge Underwood that Judge Shaver is no longer sitting as a visiting judge,” Campbell wrote to the appeals court. Campbell’s letter is dated Nov. 12.
Underwood never renewed Shaver’s appointment after 2014, which Reed’s side argues should have ended some time in 2014. Reed’s motion claims Shaver did not have a lawful appointment when he signed Reed’s death warrant in July 2019.
A response from Judge Doug Shaver filed with the appeals court late Tuesday night shows Shaver did not “have jurisdiction or authority” to rule on Reed’s Nov. 4 motion asking Campbell to void his execution order.
Shaver wrote in an email to the appeals court at 10:17 p.m. Tuesday, “At the time of the filing of the writ of prohibition, I did not and have not ruled, believing then and now that I did not have jurisdiction or authority to enter any ruling on writ of prohibition.”
The letter is signed “Doug Shaver, Presiding Judge, Sitting by assignment.”
Neither Judge Campbell nor Judge Shaver’s letters indicate when Shaver stepped down as the presiding judge in the Reed case.
In a call with Judge Underwood Wednesday morning, the judge told KXAN investigator Jody Barr, “It’s be inappropriate to comment on matters in this case.”
“I’m not going to make any comment, you can ask all the questions you want,” Underwood told Barr. The call to Underwood’s office was concerning a judicial appointment Underwood made on August 29, 2014 for Judge Shaver to preside over another case in Underwood’s district.
Underwood did not indicate in the call or follow up emails between his office and KXAN that Judge Shaver had stepped down.
DID SHAVER RETIRE IN AUGUST?
“Please remove my name from the list of judges who receive assignments, as I am retiring,” Shaver wrote in a letter to the Texas Supreme Court on August 9–less than three weeks after signing Rodney Reed’s death warrant.
Shaver did not include a date for his retirement and did not indicate whether he plans to continue presiding over the Reed’s case.
Bastrop County court records shows Shaver is still actively presiding over the Reed case. Proposed orders filed in October show Shaver’s name at the bottom of the documents awaiting his signature.
A message left for Underwood seeking answers on whether he’s terminated Shaver’s assignment or when Shaver’s retirement goes into effect has not yet been returned.
The judge’s assistant in the Third Administrative Judicial Region confirmed Friday that Judge Shaver would no longer receive any new assignments out of that division. The office could not provide answers as to whether Shaver officially retired after the August 9 message or what his intentions on continuing to preside over the Reed case were.
The appeals court has not yet made a ruling on Reed’s motion to void his execution date. The appeals court could also decide who might rule on Reed’s Nov. 4 motion to void the execution order and whether a new judge could be assigned to Reed’s case.
The appeals court could also address whether Judge Shaver’s 2014 appointment to preside over Reed’s case was still in force when Shaver signed the execution order in July 2019. The court did not have an exact date for an order to come down regarding these new developments.