Rodney Reed, sentenced to death, has 120 days to prove his innocence

The fate of a 51-year-old African American convicted of rape and murder in 1998 sparked unprecedented mobilization. Five days before his execution, new testimonies came to plead in his favor, including that of a white supremacist.

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A woman holding a portrait of Rodney Reed protests at a support demonstration on November 13 in Bastrop, Texas. NICK WAGNER / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN / AP

LETTER FROM WASHINGTON

His death was scheduled for November 20th. But from the back of his prison cell, Rodney Reed was not losing hope. And probably he was not completely wrong. Friday, 15, a Texas court of appeal granted him a stay of 120 days to give time to justice to consider new elements likely to prove his innocence.

Read also In the American death row, one in 25 is innocent

Such twists are not new in the United States. But rarely will the fate of a death row inmate arouse so much interest and mobilize as many supporters. Beyond the usual associations militant against the death penalty or those denouncing the miscarriage of justice criminal system sometimes expeditious, political figures of all sides, artists, lawyers have this time given the voice to save Rodney Reed.

Two petitions seeking his release have collected more than 3.5 million signatures. Arrested from all sides, the Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, stood aside and left the office of the graces to decide. Unanimously, the members of this committee therefore decided to stay the execution. Since his election five years ago, Mr. Abbott has only pardoned one death row inmate.

School case

Rodney Reed, Oct. 13 at the Bastrop District Court (Texas).
Rodney Reed, Oct. 13 at the Bastrop District Court (Texas). RICARDO BRAZZIELL / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN / AP

Twenty-three years ago, raping and murdering Stacey Stites, a 19-year-old white woman, 51-year-old African-American Rodney Reed, is one of the 215 prisoners currently in prison. death row in Texas, one of the toughest states in the field. But the circumstances that brought this man behind bars are a textbook case, typical of the dysfunctions of American criminal justice and its racial bias.

Shortly after the discovery of the body of the young woman on the side of a road, his fiance, a white police officer from the small Texas town of Bastrop, known for his violent remarks, is suspected. Jimmy Fennell would have heard of a relationship between his girlfriend and " a black And would have taken it very badly. But the saliva and sperm found on the victim's body do not match his DNA. He is therefore exonerated and the murder is unclear.

A year after the incident, Rodney Reed, known to the police for violence and attempted rape, is arrested. Analyzes reveal then that the sperm of the case Stites is well his. After denying knowing the victim, he admits to having maintained a consensual liaison With the young saleswoman. Sentenced to death in 1998 by a jury composed only of white citizens, he claims since his innocence.

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