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

Time unjustly imprisoned as of this writing: 5,410 days or 129,840 hours.

Innocence has many meanings; the innocence of the newborn baby, the innocence of children whose eyes and hearts are still open to wonder, the innocence of a person who is wrongfully accused of some wrongdoing, the innocence of a person wrongfully convicted of a crime. Innocence is something that is precious to many of us, something that hearkens back to the good in us and others. 

I've been thinking a great deal about innocence lately, and yesterday during my visit with Rodney, he shared the following story. Interestingly, I hadn't even spoken with him about this subject. I had mentioned to his mom, Sandra, on the trip down to see Rodney that day the title for my next blog was going to be Innocence...

It was the summer after fourth grade. Rodney was upstairs in his room getting ready to go meet his friends at the park. The Reed family was living on an Air Force base in Florida at the time. Rodney looked out of his bedroom window and happened to notice that a little boy was sitting all alone in the backyard next to his. This little boy had a baseball glove and bat in hand, all ready to play. Rodney watched for a few minutes and realized that this boy had no one to play with.

Rodney went downstairs and immediately headed over to the boy's yard. The little boy's name was Chris. After they introduced themselves, Rodney asked Chris if he knew how to play ball. Chris replied that he didn't. Rodney spent the next half hour showing Chris the rudimentary aspects of hitting a baseball. At one point Rodney served up the "perfect pitch" and Chris hit the ball, to both their surprise and delight. Unknown to Rodney, Chris's mom had been watching their entire interaction, and shortly after the momentous hit, appeared in the yard with a plate of homemade cookies. After they finished the cookies, Rodney said goodbye to Chris and his mom and headed off to the park to meet his friends.

School-time arrived, and one day early in the year Rodney was taken to the kindergarten class. He had no idea what was going on. The year was 1978, and there were some issues with the white and black kids not getting along. Somehow, the school had found out about Rodney's impromptu "baseball clinic" in Chris's backyard (Rodney is black, Chris is white) and they decided to "hire" Rodney to help the little kids learn how to get along. So Rodney spent a great deal of time early in that school year being an ambassador for tolerance. The kindergarten kids did learn to get along and Rodney was given a $20 award for his fine efforts in making that a reality.

It wasn't long after, boys being boys, that Rodney and another older boy got into a scuffle on the school playground - that's life, isn't it? None of us is innocent all the time: we all do wrong, sometimes unknowingly, sometimes knowingly. Welcome to being a human. There is a very specific, real innocence though, that does exist - when you did not commit a crime that you are arrested for, charged with, and convicted of. That is an innocence that cries out for our attention, for our efforts to put right, to make sure it doesn't happen in the first place.  

That is the innocence of Rodney Reed today. 

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.