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Texas: Rodney Reed granted indefinite stay of execution

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Stay of execution came just hours after parole board unanimously recommended 120-day reprieve
The Texas death row prisoner Rodney Reed was granted a stay of execution on Friday, 5 days before he was scheduled to be put to death for a murder he insists he did not commit.
The Texas court of criminal appeals blocked the execution indefinitely and sent the case back to the trial court in Bastrop county, where Reed was sentenced in 1998 for the murder of Stacey Stites two years earlier.
The court had previously rejected multiple appeals, but Reed’s lawyers argued that fresh evidence bolstered his claim of innocence. 
They said in a statement that they “are extremely relieved and thankful … this opportunity will allow for proper consideration of the powerful and mounting new evidence of Mr Reed’s innocence”.
Millions of people, including a clutch of celebrities, have rallied behind Reed’s cause, helping to generate momentum and public attention as the execution date of 20 November loomed an…

Court grants Duane Buck relief that could remove him from Texas death row

Duane Buck
Duane Buck
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has granted Texas death-row inmate Duane Buck the right to pursue his claims of ineffective counsel and relief under a rule that covers mistakes and neglect - a move that could spare him from execution.

In February, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that race improperly tainted Buck's death sentence and remanded the case to the lower court for a new hearing.

In a two-page ruling filed Thursday, the federal appeals court also ordered him released unless the state initiates proceedings for a new trial for punishment within six months or "elects not to seek the death penalty and accedes to a life sentence."

Buck was convicted in Houston 20 years ago for the killings of his ex-girlfriend, Debra Gardner, and her friend, Kenneth Butler. He was sentenced to death after a psychologist testified he would be a continuing threat to society because he is black.

The case, which has made national headlines for years, could be a harbinger of how the country's highest court deals with death penalty cases with racial overtones, experts have said.

After February's decision, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said her office would review Buck's case, including speaking with the victims' families and looking over mitigation evidence, before deciding how to proceed.

"Racially charged evidence has no place in any courtroom, and this administration will not tolerate its presence," she said. "We remain committed to seeking justice for the victims of Duane Buck's heinous criminal acts and will do so without what Chief Justice Roberts described as the 'strain of racial prejudice' present at the 1997 trial in which Buck was convicted."

Source: Houston Chronicle, Cindy George, April 13, 2017

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