NEWS (2/24/20): On February 24, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Texas death-row prisoner Rodney Reed’s petition for writ of certiorari, declining to review his case. Reed’s petition raised the question, not yet addressed by the Court, “Does the conviction or execution of a person who is actually innocent of the crime violate the United States Constitution?” It also asked the Court to consider the appropriate standard for lower courts to assess: (1) the prejudice from the state’s suppression of exculpatory evidence when a key prosecution witness asserts his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination when faced with the suppressed evidence; and (2) when the prosecution’s presentation of scientifically invalid expert testimony violates due process.

Reed’s petition was filed before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted him a stay of execution and ordered an evidentiary hearing on portions of his innocence claim. The Court had scheduled the petition for conference eight times before ultimately denying review.

In a statement concerning the Court’s action, Justice Sonia Sotomayor stressed that the decision not to hear Reed’s case at this juncture “does not pass on the merits of Reed’s innocence or close the door to future review.” “It is no trivial moment that the Texas courts have concluded that Reed has presented a substantive claim of actual innocence warranting further consideration and development on the merits,” she wrote. “I remain hopeful that available state processes will take care to ensure full and fair consideration of Reed’s innocence—and will not allow the most permanent of consequences to weigh on the Nation’s conscience while Reed’s conviction remains so mired in doubt.”


Read Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s Statement Respecting the Denial of Certiorari.