#FreeRodneyReed is trending on Twitter as celebrities and political activists push to exonerate Texas death-row inmate Rodney Reed before his scheduled execution on Nov. 20.
Reed became the main suspect in the murder of Stacey Stites in 1996 when his DNA matched a sample found on Stites’ body. During the trial, Reed explained this was due to his sexual relationship with Stites, though he was still convicted for her murder and placed on Texas’ death row in 1998.
Skepticism around Reed’s conviction has lingered since his initial conviction, according to the Rolling Stone. Though this skepticism heightened last month when ex-Texas prison inmate Arthur Snow signed an affidavit relaying that Jimmy Fennell, a fellow inmate who was engaged to Stites at the time of her death, allegedly confessed to her murder during a conversation with Snow in prison.
American writer and civil rights advocate Shaun King collaborated with fellow activists to create the “Free Rodney Reed” Campaign in an attempt to persuade Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to stay Reed’s execution date and retry Reed in light of the new evidence.
As of Nov. 5, over 1.2 million people have signed the petition, inspiring King to set a new goal of 2 million signatures by Nov. 20.
What sparked this flurry of support? Social media.
Kim Kardashian West, Rihanna, and Meek Mill are among the countless celebrities to share their support for Reed on Twitter, urging their followers to sign the petition.
“PLEASE @GovAbbott How can you execute a man when since his trial, substantial evidence that would exonerate Rodney Reed has come forward and even implicates the other person of interest,” shared Kim Kardashian West. “I URGE YOU TO DO THE RIGHT THING.”
Rapper Meek Mill even linked the petition in a tweet, writing “16 days left and he will be executed for a crime he didn’t commit…get more info here!”.
Sharoni Little, a Professor in Business Communications and Associate Dean and Senior Diversity Officer at the USC Marshall School of Business, shared her thoughts about the impact of social media for political activism.
“I think that social media provides a platform for social justice cases because it allows for a diverse group of people who may have very different perspectives to align with one particular issue,” Little told Annenberg Media. “[Social media] bridges a location gap where you don’t have to necessarily be congregated or convened in the same space.”
Little also expressed concern about executing Reed without providing him a new trial.
“Unfortunately, when human life is at stake we don’t have the opportunity to go back and remedy a mistake that takes someone’s life, and so I feel that whether guilty or innocent, we need to ensure that guilt or innocence instead of it being some question,” Little relayed. “There is some clear indication that there is some doubt associated with the event.”
Reed’s supporters hope to reach Gov. Abbott as his execution date nears.
You can learn more about Rodney Reed’s case and sign the petition here.