Legal battle over Rodney Reed judge continues weeks past execution date

Rodney Reed

Death-row inmate Rodney Reed speaks with KXAN from prison. (KXAN Photo/ Ben Freiberg).

BASTROP COUNTY, TX (KXAN) — Rodney Reed was supposed to be dead by now.

But, the convicted killer’s still sitting on Texas’s death row as his lawyers continue fighting to have yet another judge in the case removed.

Reed was set to be executed on Nov. 20.

The execution order directed the executioner to use a lethal cocktail of drugs “to be intravenously injected into your body sufficient to cause your death,” the July 2019 execution order stated.

But Reed didn’t die on Nov. 20.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals handed down an order five days before, putting a temporary halt to Reed’s execution.

The delay happened after Reed’s attorneys argued Judge Doug Shaver, who signed the July 2019 execution order, wasn’t legally serving as a judge.

Rodney Reed_114723
Rodney Reed is still on death row awaiting rulings that could determine whether he lives or dies.

Their arguments also included new details from what Reed’s side called “witnesses” who they claim proves Reed’s innocence.

Reed’s side argued Shaver— a retired, visiting judge at the time — had outlived his 2014 appointment to Reed’s case. Shaver’s appointment was never renewed after 2014, which means Shaver would have presided over Reed’s case longer than a duly elected judge would have served without having to win re-election.

In the Nov. 15 appeals court execution stay order, the justices did not take up the Judge Shaver appointment argument but did order that Shaver would continue serving as Reed’s judge. Shaver was removed and Judge J.D. Langley—a retired, visiting judge—was appointed to the case days later.

Reed’s attorneys argued against the Langley’s appointment in a new filing to the appeals court. Reed believes Texas Code of Criminal Procedure requires Judge Carson Campbell, the elected Bastrop County District Court Judge, be appointed to the Reed case.

Reed’s lawyer’s argument “is blatantly wrong,” Assistant District Attorney Matthew Ottoway wrote in a Nov. 4 motion opposing Reed’s request to have Langley removed. Texas law “only requires that the case be heard by the convicting court, it does not dictate the judge who sits in that court,” Ottoway wrote.

“Reed’s arguments suggesting that the Court can defy the CCA ignore the hierarchal [sic] structure of Texas’s court system. Reed has provided no good reason to undo the November 21, 2019 assignment order, and his request to withdraw it should be denied,” Ottoway’s motion stated.

The latest motions are filed in Bastrop County and set to be heard by Judge Langley. Reed’s attorneys also filed a motion with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for a rehearing on the judicial appointment element of the Nov. 15 order.  

“The State has no objection to staying this proceeding until Judge Underwood rules on Reed’s motion to withdraw the November 21, 2019 assignment order,” Bastrop County District Attorney Bryan Goertz wrote in the prosecution’s Nov. 4 response.

There are no dates set yet in Bastrop County to hear the latest motions.

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