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Supreme Court raises stakes with review of death row inmate’s DNA request


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The Hill

Criminal justice reform advocates expressed guarded optimism this week after the Supreme Court agreed to review a death row inmate’s request for DNA testing of evidence. 

Rodney Reed, who maintains his innocence in 1996 murder of Stacey Stites, has long sought genetic testing of items collected from the Bastrop County, Texas, crime scene, including materials recovered near the truck belonging to victim’s fiancé, Jimmy Fennell, whom Reed’s attorneys have pointed to as a possible suspect in the case.

The issue before the Supreme Court is a technical one dealing with when the window closed for Reed to request for DNA testing. Lower federal courts are divided over whether the clock begins when a trial court denies the request, or whether it begins after the appeals process plays out.

Reed is challenging a federal appeals court’s ruling that the two-year clock on his request began to run in 2014, after a Texas state court denied his bid for DNA testing but while state-level appeals were pending. In his petition to the justices, Reed’s lawyers called this procedural approach “illogical.”

Advocates say the Supreme Court’s move to review the lower court’s interpretation is a step in the right direction.:snip:

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