Conviction reversed in 30-year-old death row case

HOUSTON – A white man on Texas death row for nearly 30 years could be freed because an appeals court has ruled that prosecutors improperly excluded blacks from his jury in the belief that blacks empathize with defendants.

Jonathan Bruce Reed was convicted and condemned for the November 1978 rape-slaying of Wanda Jean Wadle at her Dallas apartment.

But now the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled Dallas County prosecutors improperly excluded black prospective jurors from Reed’s trial and ordered him released unless prosecutors choose to retry him quickly.

“Although we do not relish adding a new chapter to this unfortunate story more than 30 years after the crime took place, we conclude that the Constitution affords Reed a right to relief,” a three-member panel of the New Orleans-based court wrote in the ruling posted late Monday.

Jamille Bradfield, a spokeswoman for Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, said it was premature to comment on whether Reed would be retried.

“We still need time to dissect the opinion,” she said Tuesday.

Reed has been on death row since September 1979, making him among the longest-serving prisoners awaiting execution in Texas.

The rest of the article is available here.

That long on death row in Texas? He should be considered lucky he’s still alive to even be released from jail!

These “technicality” cases are very interesting from a number of points of view.
The only question in my mind is ~ did he commit the crime or not?
Does this ruling lead to true justice being done?
Given the time lapse is he likely to get a fair trial today?
Does the victim get justice?

I am reminded of the local case of James Hanratty Hanged on 4 April 1962, at Bedford prison.
He was convicted of murder and rape in a local beauty spot lay by.
There was a concerted campaign by the press, his family and several authors to get the verdict overturned.

In 2002 the case was referred to a relatively new case review board who, after consideration, referred it to the court of appeal. It was likely given the campaigns and press interest that the conviction would have been over turned.
However the science of dna had since made great strides and the semen sample on the victims underwear was tested against the dna from the exhumed body.
It was found to be a perfect match. The case was thrown out by the court.
The local police had kept all the case papers and forensic evidence in a secure archive, had they not then a true miscarriage of justice would have taken place. The family do not accept to this day his guilt.

Now I do not know if Reed is innocence or guilty but surely no one should be released or convicted without proof beyond a reasonable doubt.