Editor’s Note: The original article was updated at 2:30 p.m. to reflect Rodney Reed’s new request for rehearing to contest the newest judicial appointment of Judge J.D. Langley.
BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) – After weeks of questions over whether the Rodney Reed case had a legally-appointed judge, a new filing shows retired District Court Judge Jimmy Don “J.D.” Langley is now Reed’s judge.
Reed was set to be executed Nov. 20 after being convicted of the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites, but an appeals court order issued last Friday delayed Reed’s execution indefinitely while Reed’s trial court judge hears from Reed’s side and the prosecution over what Reed’s attorneys argue is new evidence in the case.
An assignment notice filed in Bastrop County Thursday shows Langley’s pay for the Reed assignment “has been authorized not to exceed fifteen days.”
“If the case or cases you are hearing under this assignment extend beyond the authorized time for compensation you must obtain an extension of time in order to receive compensation for anything beyond that period,” the notice stated.
Langley served nearly 30 years as a district court judge in Brazos County’s 85th Judicial District Court, winning reelection five times. A Texas A&M graduate, Langley graduated from the South Texas College of law in 1983.
Langley did not seek reelection in 2014 and retired at the end of his term on Dec. 31, 2014. He was first elected as a district court judge in 1991 after working as a county court of law judge and an assistant district attorney in the mid-80s.
Reed’s case is based in Bastrop County, which is in the Second Administrative Judicial Region. Langley was appointed to Reed’s case Thursday by the second region’s Presiding Judge Olen Underwood.
Underwood is also the one who appointed Reed’s former judge, Doug Shaver.
Questions surrounding Shaver’s appointment arose in early November when Reed’s side filed motions asking to have the July 2019 execution order voided. Shaver signed that order in July, but Reed’s side later argued that Shaver was not legally appointed to have signed the execution order, pointing out that Shaver’s 2014 assignment expired in 2014.
Shaver was originally appointed to the Reed case in 2014 and was never reappointed by Presiding Judge Underwood. Reed’s side argued to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that decisions Shaver made in Reed’s case after 2014 should be voided.
Days after Shaver signed Reed’s death warrant, on Aug. 9, Shaver sent the Texas Supreme Court a letter saying he was retiring. That same day Shaver also emailed his boss, Presiding Judge Billy Ray Stubblefield, telling Stubblefield he’d been in “fear” of making mistakes on “some important legal matter” and was stepping down as a judge.
The state supreme court sent Shaver a letter on Aug. 19, thanking him for his service and accepting his retirement.
Until Thursday’s appointment order came down from Underwood, there was no judge presiding over Reed’s case between Aug. 19 and Thursday’s appointment of Judge J.D. Langley.
In response to Thursday’s appointment filing, Reed’s attorneys forwarded a new motion Reed’s side filed with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Reed wants the appeals court to amend its Nov. 15 order staying Reed’s execution and not addressing the legalities regarding Shaver’s appointment.
Reed’s side wants Judge Carson Campbell, the elected judge of the 21st District Court, to hear Reed’s motions.
During Langley’s time on the bench, he’s handled arguments over motions involving death penalty cases. One of the latest, most high-profile cases surrounded Marcus Druery. Druery was a week from execution when Langley denied a hearing from Druery’s lawyers who argued the convicted killer was not mentally fit to be executed.
Their arguments were that Druery didn’t have a “rational” understanding for why he was being executed. Druery was convicted by a Brazos County jury in 2003 of robbing and murdering Skyyler Browne. Investigators found his burned body, riddled with bullet wounds, and dumped in a pond.
Days before Druery’s Aug. 1, 2012 execution, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a stay, writing that “further review is necessary” before the state out Druery to death.
“Appellant’s competency motion, supplement, and attachments made a ‘substantial showing’ of incompetency,” the appeals court wrote in an Oct. 30, 2013 order, “…because they presented sufficient credible evidence that Appellant is incompetent to be executed. The trial court erred in weighing the credible evidence of Appellant’s incompetency against credible evidence of his competency to determine that he had not made a “substantial showing” of incompetency.”
A court later found Druery incompetent to be executed. Druery still sits on death row today, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice records.
Hearing dates in the Rodney Reed case have not yet been set. Langley told KXAN by phone Thursday he could not discuss his assignment or any of the pending matters in the Reed case since he will be deciding arguments from both sides.
Multiple messages and calls to Bastrop County District Attorney Bryan Goertz have not been returned.