Racial bias in the Rodney Reed case underscores why the death penalty shouldn’t exist

On Wednesday, Nov 20, an innocent man will be killed. When Stacey Stiles’ body was found in Texas, police initially suspected her fiance, former police officer Jimmy Fennell, who has a history of violence against women. But when the police found out that Stiles, a white woman, had been having an affair with Reed, a black man, the entire investigation changed. Reed was arrested and put on trial where an all white jury convicted him of murder and a white judge sentenced him to death. Reed has sat on death row for the past two decades, always maintaining his innocence and asking for more evidence to be used to overturn his conviction; but as the execution date approaches, hope for his rescue is dimming. Too often has capital punishment oppressed black Americans and murdered innocents. The death penalty should not exist.

The conviction still stands despite Stacey Stiles’ family testifying Stiles’ relationship with Reed was consensual, Reed’s solid alibi and Fennell’s lack of one. Additionally, Fennell was quoted saying Stiles “got what she deserved,” at her funeral and Fennell has been arrested for the kidnapping and assault of a woman in 2008. Experts even called the trial a botched miscarriage of justice. It is clear that police were looking for an easy scapegoat for the crime and racial bias led them to choose Reed. Now Rodney Reed, an innocent man, will be murdered by the state of Texas before the end of the month. If not for the death penalty, Reed’s life would not be in danger, and there would be much more time to pressure the governor of Texas to have his sentence commuted. Today there is a petition with more than 2 million signatures asking for the release of Reed, but even if the governor wanted to release Reed, bureaucratic hurdles may stop the governor from making the decision before the execution date.

The death penalty has a history of racial disparity. Black defendants are nearly twice as likely to be sentenced to death than whites defendants, and murderers of white victims were 4.3 times more likely to be sentenced to death than those with black victims. The racism portrayed in the statistics of the death penalty is shocking, but the most shocking statistic is the number of innocent individuals the United States executes. Rodney Reed’s predicament is far from unique. A 2014 study showed that 4.1% of individuals executed, or every one in 25, are innocent. The same study espouses the likelihood that more than half of innocent people murdered by the state are unaccounted for.

The glaring injustice of the death penalty cannot be ignored. A murder is permanent. When the state kills someone who did nothing wrong, they are taking away any chance of their exoneration. As more innocent — mostly black — people are killed every day, it becomes more clear that the death penalty must be federally outlawed and left to be another bad memory in America’s past. 

 

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