04:12 - Source: CNN
Support growing for inmate nearing execution date
CNN —  

The mother of Texas death row inmate Rodney Reed, who is scheduled to be executed next week, says she knows he’ll be a free man if he gets a new trial.

“If he gets a fair trial, he’ll be home with us,” Sandra Reed told CNN.

Rodney Reed was sentenced to death more than 20 years ago for the 1996 murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites in Bastrop, Texas. Police said he assaulted, raped and strangled her. Reed said he’s innocent, but the prosecution claims there’s overwhelming evidence he’s guilty.

Recently, celebrities, religious leaders and lawmakers began calling for a halt to his execution after his attorneys pointed to new witness accounts and evidence they claim exonerates him.

“All we have to do is get justice out the street and bring it back into the courtroom where it needs to be,” Rodrick Reed, his brother, told CNN. “And Rodney Reed will be free and exonerated from this crime.”

The Innocence Project – which says Reed, who is black, was convicted by an all-white jury – says the murder weapon was never tested for DNA evidence and forensic experts later admitted to errors in their testimony. A former prison inmate claims someone else confessed to the murder that sent Reed to prison. Bryce Benjet, a senior staff attorney with the Innocence Project, called the case a “miscarriage of justice.”

The lead prosecutor for Reed’s case maintained he is guilty.

“A large amount of credible evidence, including irrefutable DNA evidence, the testimony of witnesses, and the pattern Rodney Reed followed in committing his other sexual assaults, show beyond a reasonable doubt that he raped and murdered Stacey Stites,” Lisa Tanner said.

Reed became a suspect in Stite’s killing after he was arrested for kidnapping, beating and attempting to rape and kill another woman, 19-year-old Linda Schlueter, near the same route Stites usually took to work at the time she disappeared, prosecutors said in their Supreme Court filing.

The similarities led authorities to investigate.

Schlueter was among six women who prosecutors said Reed attacked or sexually assaulted. Reed was charged and acquitted in one case, prosecutors said. He was not prosecuted on the other allegations.

’I’m standing strong on the truth’

Corruption and racism within the justice system are to blame for Reed’s sentence, his family told CNN.

“I have to stay strong and put my son’s case out here and let the world know what was done to him,” Sandra Reed said. “That opened my eyes that this has happened to other people before and it will happen afterwards if we don’t address this issue.”

Meanwhile, more than 2.8 million people have signed an online petition at freerodneyreed.com to stop Reed’s execution.

Celebrities including Rihanna, Kim Kardashian West and Beyoncé have spoken out in support of Reed. Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Austin, and Democratic and Republican state lawmakers have made appeals to stop the execution.

“It’s so uplifting,” Sandra Reed said. “Just to know that the truth is out here and the whole world…knows. And this truth should set him free.”

That’s what she’s counting on, she told CNN.

“I’m standing strong on the truth,” his mother said. “That’s the way I survive this.”

CNN’s Darran Simon, Ashley Killough and Ed Lavandera contributed to this report.