Tales from death row: Justice for Rodney Reed by Caitlin Adams

As of this writing 2/29/12, there is still no resolution to the issue of Rodney's confiscated property. Injustice time is 5,445 days. 130,680 hours.

There is a long-standing culture in the TDCJ (Texas Department of Criminal Justice), one of control. Control through any means deemed necessary by TDCJ administration and personnel. For anyone who is interested in understanding this culture more thoroughly, I highly recommend the book Texas Tough by Robert Perkinson.

Rodney had an early, unforgettable experience with this culture shortly after he first arrived on the Polunsky Unit, where all male Texas death row prisoners are housed.  Rodney had been taken to the day room by a transport team of corrections officers (CO's). Whenever Rodney or any other death row prisoner is taken anywhere outside his cell, they are strip searched, handcuffed and transported with a team of 2-3 CO's. The same routine occurs when they are returned to their cells.

Rodney had been in the dayroom that day approximately 15-20 minutes, but rec time is generally 1-2 hours, so when a CO came to transport Rodney back to his cell, Rodney knew something was amiss. Rodney tried to explain to the CO that he had just arrived, at which point the CO ordered Rodney to leave the dayroom. Rodney did as ordered. The CO then placed Rodney in handcuffs. The handcuffs were placed very tightly on Rodney's wrists (there are permanent marks on both of Rodney's wrists from the long-term use of handcuffs). 

As Rodney was being transported, he felt something hit the back of his legs. At first he thought the CO had accidentally bumped into him. Then it happened again with more force. Rodney then knew that the CO was intentionally kicking him.  The CO started shouting at Rodney to stop "pulling on me," which Rodney had not done.  Quickly Rodney realized that the CO was trying to "slam" him face down on the ground.  A common practice among some CO's to establish dominance and control.  Rodney, being a trained boxer, knew how to maintain his balance even when the CO's efforts became more and more forceful.  The CO then ordered Rodney to "check the wall" which means to turn, face the wall, and stand very close to the wall. Rodney did as ordered.  Again, boxing instincts took over, and Rodney placed his feet, one slightly in front of the other. When the shove came from the CO, this stance prevented Rodney's face from smashing off the wall.  All this time the CO continued to shout at Rodney to stop "pulling on me." Rodney was finally returned to his cell.

The CO wrote "a case" on Rodney.  This is the process of writing a prisoner up for a disciplinary infraction.  The documented infraction, "jacking the day room," which means refusing to leave the dayroom and requiring physical force to follow direction.  There is a "court" proceeding for all disciplinary cases.  Rodney was supposed to have "representation," as required by TDCJ Policy and Procedure, however, on the day of the proceeding, Rodney arrived at the hearing to discover that he had never met or spoken to the person there to represent him.

When the CO was called for questioning, Rodney had his representative ask two questions: 1 - When prisoner Reed was ordered to leave the dayroom, did he comply with your order?  2 - When prisoner Reed was ordered to "check the wall" did he comply with your order? The CO's response to both questions was "Yes sir, he complied." When the CO realized that his response essentially cleared Rodney of any wrongdoing, he began shouting "he was pulling on me," over and over again. 

Rodney was found guilty and the case against him was upheld. Cases that are upheld result in punishments for the prisoner, which often take the form of lost privileges.

In the 14 years Rodney has been on death row, he has only had a few written cases; Rodney was never found innocent on a single one. TDCJ has a grievance process for prisoners who feel they have not been treated fairly. Over the years Rodney has filed numerous grievances and not one has been ruled on in his favor. Culture of control. (Chapter 7 Appeal for Justice in Texas Tough is particularly enlightening on this subject.)

You as the reader maybe wondering at this point — why the title “Forgiveness”? 

Rodney had no further contact with the CO in this case, until some years later when he came as a part of a transport team.  Rodney went up to this CO and quietly whispered to him "I forgive you."  Quite astonished, the CO responded, "You do?"  and Rodney replied, "Yes, I do."

Caitlin Adams is a resident of Bastrop, Texas.  After meeting the family of Texas death row prisoner Rodney Reed outside of their home in early 2011, she began writing with Rodney.  She has developed a friendship with Rodney's mother Sandra and his family in Bastrop, as well as making regular trips to death row to visit Rodney. 

After learning about the facts of Rodney's case, Caitlin has become an advocate for Rodney Reed – here we present Caitlin's story about her journey for justice.