A teacher convicted in 2011 of ongoing sexual conduct with young student waited too long and failed to explain “in a meaningful way” why a Navajo County judge should have allowed him to argue last year that evidence was withheld from the grand jury that indicted him, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled Monday.
Rodney John Reed was initially indicted by a Navajo County grand jury in 2009 for his conduct over several years with a student starting in the late 1990s when the girl was in seventh grade. He was convicted by a jury of 11 counts for which Reed was sentenced to 79 years in state prison.
The court of appeals first reviewed the case in 2012 at which time Reed’s convictions and sentences were affirmed over his claims of prosecutorial misconduct, incorrect evidentiary rulings, and issues with jury selection.
Reed then sought post-conviction relief from his trial judge in March 2013 which ended in 2016 with the dismissal of one of Reed’s convictions because it did not occur within the jurisdiction of Navajo County.
Reed, 67, took his case back to the court of appeals in 2017, asking for review of the local judge’s denial of further relief. The appellate court agreed to review the matter but in June 2018 issued a decision denying Reed’s request for relief.
In March 2019, Reed went back to the Navajo County Superior Court with a motion to dismiss “all charges” based in part on emails he claims were “deliberately” not presented to the grand jury that indicted him in November 2009. The trial judge denied Reed’s motion as untimely, citing in the court’s May 2019 ruling the number of years which had passed in the case.
Reed also filed a motion last year to suppress certain communications involving his case and requested permission to amend his previous petition for post-conviction relief. Those motions were also denied by the Navajo County judge.
Court rules allow defendants 30 days to seek review of a lower court’s ruling on post-conviction matters. However, Reed did not petition the court of appeals for review of his three recently denied motions until September 2019.
A three-judge appellate panel agreed to review the recent motions but in a decision released Monday denied any relief to Reed. The decision notes that Reed missed the deadline for challenging the motion to dismiss decision. And the court of appeals noted that court rules do not allow for review the denial of Reed’s motion to amend a petition for post-conviction relief.
But the key part of Monday’s appellate decision is found in the footnotes.
According to the decision, Reed’s motion to suppress did not challenge the validity of his convictions or sentences, nor identify new evidence which would allow a court to reopen the case. However, “even assuming Reed’s motion to suppress could be construed as a constitutional claim…it was untimely,” and thus would not be accepted.
Another footnote addresses the fact that had Reed attempted to raise a claim of newly discovered evidence, he would be precluded from arguing it in his second petition for post-conviction relief without explaining “in a meaningful way why he had not raised the claim in a previous notice or petition.”
Arizona Department of Corrections lists Reed’s release date as April 16, 2087. The nature of his crimes makes him ineligible for any early release programs.