SCOTUS rules for death row inmate over bid to obtain new DNA

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19 Apr 2023, 11:46 am

The court voted 6-3 to overturn a lower court ruling that said Reed, who has long maintained his innocence in the rape and murder of a grocery store clerk, had waited too long to make the DNA testing request.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that Texas death row inmate Rodney Reed, who was convicted of murdering a young grocery store clerk in 1996, can get a new shot at obtaining new DNA testing.

Reed was convicted of the rape and murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites, who was strangled to death in Bastrop County, Texas.

The court on a 6-3 vote overturned a lower court ruling that said Reed, who has long maintained his innocence, had waited too long to make the request.

In an opinion by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the court found that the two-year window for filing a civil rights claim in federal court only starts counting down after state court proceedings are finished.

“In Reed’s case, the state’s alleged failure to provide Reed with a fundamentally fair process was complete when the state litigation ended and deprived Reed of his asserted liberty interest in DNA testing,” Kavanaugh wrote.

The case prompted an unusual split on the court, with Kavanaugh joined by the three liberal justices and two conservatives, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett, in the majority. Three other conservative justices, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, dissented.

Alito wrote that the majority's conclusion was "clearly wrong" on when the clock starts ticking and questioned whether it would be unfair for defendants to be required to file their claims sooner.

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Joined: 19 Nov 2017
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19 Apr 2023, 8:05 pm

I’ve never understood why new DNA testing would ever be denied in a capital murder case. It’s nice to see at least one rational ruling out of this court.

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