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Court puts hold on Rodney Reed’s scheduled execution

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The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Friday afternoon stopped the scheduled execution of death row inmate and convicted murderer Rodney Reed.

The nonprofit Innocence Project, which has been representing Reed in his effort to stay alive, tweeted the court granted a stay of execution that was “indefinite.” The ruling was posted to the court’s website.

“We are extremely relieved and thankful that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) has issued a stay of execution for our client Rodney Reed,” said his attorney, Bryce Benjet, of the Innocence Project. “This opportunity will allow for proper consideration of the powerful and mounting new evidence of Mr. Reed’s innocence.”

Texas civil rights attorney S. Lee Merritt tweeted that he spoke with Reed’s family after the court ruling and they are “overjoyed but know this fight isn’t over.”

The court’s move came after the state parole board voted unanimously Friday to recommend Gov. Greg Abbott delay the execution by 120 days He was scheduled to be put to death next Wednesday.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, however, also asked that Abbott not commute Reed’s sentence to a lesser penalty. It’s unclear what the governor may decide, and his office did not immediately return a request for comment.

Image: Rodney Reed at a Bastrop County District Court hearing in 2017.
Rodney Reed at a Bastrop County District Court hearing in 2017.Ralph Barrera / Austin American-Statesman via AP file

The call to halt Reed’s execution by lethal injection has been building in recent weeks, gaining support from a bipartisan group of about 45 state lawmakers, outspoken celebrities, including Kim Kardashian West and Oprah Winfrey, and an online petition.

Reed, now 51, was found guilty by an all-white jury in the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites, a 19-year-old grocery store worker in central Texas. His lawyers have pointed to new witnesses who have come forward and forensic evidence that has been reevaluated to insist he at least deserves a new trial. That includes at least 11 people who have recently cast doubt on Reed’s conviction and, in some cases, implicated Stites’ fiancé, Jimmy Fennell.

The parole board’s recommendation comes as Reed’s legal team has multiple appeals and motions filed and pending along various legal tracks. His lawyers have asked Abbott, a Republican, to stop the execution. Abbott has not commented publicly on the issue.

The Supreme Court might also take up the case, reinvigorating Reed’s supporters, some of whom camped out overnight Thursday to hold vigils outside of the high court awaiting a decision.

“When the whole world watches, it’s going to be hard for someone to make a mistake,” Reed’s brother, Rodrick Reed, said during a rally Thursday night near the Supreme Court. “That gives us a lot of hope and a lot of confidence that the right thing will eventually come out of this.”

Last year, the high court had refused to review an earlier Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruling that rejected further DNA testing in the case — paving the way for Reed’s execution.

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Travis Runnels, 46, A Texas inmate slated for execution by lethal injection on Wednesday, Dec. 11 despite claims of false testimony

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According to Texas Tribune Texas officials aren’t disputing that prosecutors introduced false testimony at Travis Runnels’ 2005 capital murder trial in Amarillo. Instead, they argue the state should still execute him even if they did.

Runnels, 46, is scheduled to be executed Wednesday evening in Texas’ death chamber in Huntsville. There’s no question of his guilt in the 2003 prison murder of Stanley Wiley, a supervisor at the Clement Unit’s boot factory, where Runnels worked while serving a 70-year aggravated robbery sentence. He pleaded guilty at trial, despite knowing the state was seeking the death penalty.

But at his punishment hearing, where jurors in part weigh how likely a capital murder convict is to be dangerous in the future, the state introduced as a witness A.P. Merillat, who at the time was a criminal investigator for the state prosecutors who handle prison crimes. He has testified in at least 15 trials that resulted in death sentences, but his incorrect testimony on the levels of security in prisons has since led to two overturned death sentences in Texas.

Runnels is hoping the state’s reliance on Merillat’s testimony will prompt the U.S. Supreme Court to stop his execution, too. Read More here

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Police identify man wanted in death of Nassau Bay police sergeant, DPS issues Blue Alert

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HOUSTON – Police have identified the suspect wanted in connection to the death of a Nassau Bay police sergeant.

Harris County sheriff’s deputies say they are looking for 21-year-old Tavores Henderson. He’s considered extremely dangerous. A Blue Alert has been issued for the suspect.

Henderson has been charged with felony murder for the hit-and-run death of Sgt. Kaila Sullivan. She was hit and killed by the suspect’s vehicle during a traffic stop around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The U.S. Marshals Service will pay $10,000 for information leading to Henderson’s arrest. Crime Stoppers of Houston will also pay an additional $5,000. The 100 Club has added an additional $5,000 to the reward. Read More Here

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Democrats announce 2 articles of impeachment against President Trump

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Democrats in the House of Representatives announced they will introduce two articles of impeachment Tuesday morning, making clear they intend to charge President Donald Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Both articles are based on the Ukraine scandal, meaning the party decided not to introduce any articles of impeachment solely based on the Mueller report, as some had pushed for.

Articles of impeachment are essentially the “charges” against the president that the House of Representatives is considering approving. The final House votes on impeachment will be a yes or no vote on each article. If even one is approved, Trump is impeached — and the Senate will then hold a trial to determine whether to remove him from office.

Democrats have not yet released the full articles, but they explained that Article 1, abuse of power, will address Trump’s general underlying conduct in the Ukraine scandal. It alleges that Trump abused his power by trying to pressure Ukraine’s government into announcing an investigation into the Bidens by withholding both a White House meeting and military aid.

Article 2, obstruction of Congress, will be about how Trump responded to Democrats’ impeachment inquiry over the Ukraine scandal. It alleges that Trump obstructed the probe by urging witnesses not to cooperate and government agencies not to comply with subpoenas.

Read More Here

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