Rodney Reed was "extremely emotional" and said "Praise Jesus" when he learned his scheduled execution by the state of Texas had been put on hold, according to Kim Kardashian West, who was with the death row inmate when he learned the news.
Kardashian West was one of several celebrities and hundreds of thousands of people across party lines and the world who mobilized in the past few months to try to halt Reed’s execution, seeing the case as an example of the deep and systemic racial disparities that plague America's criminal justice system.
“When we got the news, it was just this overwhelming sigh of relief and hope that really filled the room,” Kardashian West told Jenna Bush Hager in an interview on the "Today" show that aired Monday. “It was emotional. It was extremely emotional, and he said, ‘Praise Jesus' ... I could just feel his soul when he said that."
Kardashian West said that despite the celebrations, Reed’s trauma from decades of incarceration still colored the mood.
“When someone has been through so much trauma and so much disappointment in their life that, especially when they feel like they haven’t been heard, you can imagine still a sense of disbelief,” she said, citing Reed’s “history of just being let down for so many years.”
Reed, who is black, was found guilty by an all-white jury in the 1996 rape and murder of Stacey Stites, a white 19-year-old grocery store worker in central Texas. But new evidence in the case has cast doubts on the 51-year-old's conviction.
At the time, Stites was engaged to police officer Jimmy Fennell. Reed's defense team has found witnesses who say Fennell expressed anger and threats over his suspicions that she was seeing a black man behind his back. Reed initially denied knowing Stites, but then admitted to having a consensual relationship with her.
Fennell later went to prison on separate charges, and an inmate who served time with him said in an affidavit that Fennell had confessed to Stites' murder, according to Reed's legal team. Reed did not testify at his own trial.
Kardashian West said she and Reed discussed many of the details of his case. “It's really important to him that the scientific evidence be brought and considered heavily,” she said.
The two also discussed family, the reality television star-turned-criminal justice reform advocate said.
The nonprofit Innocence Project, which has been representing Reed in his effort to stay alive, tweeted that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay of execution that was "indefinite."
The court's move came after the state parole board voted unanimously Friday to recommend Gov. Greg Abbott delay the execution by 120 days. Reed’s execution had been scheduled for Wednesday.
Kardashian West has become a prominent advocate for criminal justice reform, studying to become a lawyer and most notably helping free Alice Marie Johnson, whose life sentence stemming from drug charges was commuted by President Donald Trump after Kardashian West lobbied on her behalf in an Oval Office meeting.
Kardashian West said Johnson was her inspiration to get involved in criminal justice reform work.
“I always say Alice found me and we were supposed to be on this journey together,” she said. “I love that we’ve been able to get a lot of work done."
She also said that being a mom changed her perspective on the issue as well.
"When you become a mom, you become so protective. You want to hopefully make their world the most perfect place ever, and ours obviously isn’t," Kardashian West said. "I definitely see how black men are treated in this country ... and I'm raising two black men, so I want to make sure that my world and their world is as safe and as fair as possible."
The "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" star said she is careful when to add her voice to cases like Reed's, making sure to consult her team of lawyers and the family of those involved, if possible.
"I really think attention can help," she said. Referencing the huge amount of support Reed received online, Kardashian West said, "They say that it takes a village, but it really takes a country."