Rodney Reed Was Scheduled to Be Executed Today Before Texas Court Ruling—What Happens Now?

Rodney Reed, a Texas man convicted of raping and murdering a woman in 1996, was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection Wednesday. After concerted efforts from supporters who believe he is innocent of the crime, the Court of Criminal Appeals in Texas has decided to postpone his execution indefinitely and ordered the lower court that originally tried him to consider new evidence.

Reed, 51, has been on death row since 1998 for the rape and murder of Stacey Stites. She was engaged to a local police officer at the time, but Reed maintains that he and Stites were having an affair at the time of her death. Some have claimed that the case was racially charged, as Reed is black and Stites was white. The Innocence Project, a nonprofit that aims to exonerate wrongfully convicted death row inmates, took up Reed's case.

On November 15, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously decided to request that Reed's execution be pushed back 120 days, Newsweek reported. According to the Innocence Project's webpage on Reed, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted "an indefinite stay of execution" just hours after this request was made. This means that Reed no longer has an execution date—but he has not been exonerated of the crime.

So what's next for Reed? The Innocence Project maintains that the "fight for Rodney is not over" but he has now been given a fair chance to prove his innocence.

"We're happy that we're going to have an opportunity to present the compelling evidence that Rodney Reed didn't commit the crime," Bryce Benjet, a senior staff attorney for the Innocence Project, told The Texas Tribune on November 15. "The Court of Criminal Appeals recognized the substance of this case and the need for a special hearing where all the evidence can be considered."

A weeklong hearing is set to take place, in which new witnesses will testify on Reed's behalf, according to the Innocence Project. These witnesses will bring "new, mounting evidence that points to his innocence." After the hearing, it will be up to judges to decide to grant Reed a new trial or not.

A date has not yet been set for the hearing.

According to previous reporting by Newsweek, Reed's conviction was largely based on evidence that a small amount sperm found in Stites' body could be traced back to Reed. The presence of DNA on the body, as well as several other factors—including Reed's adamant denial of guilt and four witness statements that bolster allegations that Stites's fiancé killed her—caused many to call for Texas to halt its scheduled execution.

Reed's case attracted attention from celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Rihanna and Kim Kardashian West, all of whom called on Texas Governor Greg Abbott to "do the right thing" and stay the execution. A petition urging the state government to reconsider executing Reed had garnered nearly 3 million signatures by the time the execution was postponed.

Texas death chamber in Huntsville
A death chamber in Huntsville, Texas, on June 23, 2000. Joe Raedle/Getty