The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has stayed Rodney Reed’s execution, pending further court mediation. This decision came just five days before the scheduled execution date of Nov. 20. The Texas Supreme Court handed the case back to the trial courts of Bastrop, Texas, where it will be further adjudicated.
Stacey Stites was found dead at 19 years old, on Apr. 23, 1996, in Bastrop, Texas. She was partially clothed, lying on her back, and her injuries indicated that she was strangled. She was engaged to a police officer named Jimmy Fennell.
Two years later, Rodney Reed was convicted and sentenced the death penalty for the rape and murder of Stites.
The facts of the case can be separated into two sections; new evidence suggests another suspect, and old evidence indicates a wrongful conviction of Reed.
New evidence indicates that Stites’ fiancée at the time, Jimmy Fennell, is a valid suspect.
A former cellmate of Fennell, Arthur Snow Jr., states in a sworn affidavit that to gain credibility and protection from the Aryan Brotherhood, Fennell said, “I had to kill my n*****- loving fiancée.”
Fennell, in 2008, was convicted of two felonies: kidnapping and raping a woman in custody, while on duty. Reed’s defense argues this is an indication of a predatory pattern.
There are inconsistencies in the proposed time of death, which State prosecutors claimed to be near 3:30 a.m. because Stites allegedly left her and Fennell’s apartment at 3:00 a.m. Fennell provided this timeline.
The innocence project, seeking outside counsel, consulted medical expert Dr. Michael Baden, a pathologist at the FBI.
Dr. Baden states in his testimony, “The lividity demonstrates that Ms. Stites was dead before midnight on Apr. 22 when she was alone with Mr. Fennell.”
In a sworn affidavit, Travis county medical expert Dr. Roberto Bayardo, when recanting his testimony, stated that his estimated time of death was “only an estimate, and should not have been used at trial as an accurate statement of when Ms. Stites died.”
Current and past evidence verifies that the only DNA evidence linking Reed to the murder was semen found in Stites’ body, but this was from a pre-existing, consensual relationship.
Further, State prosecutors and the state AG never conducted DNA testing of the murder weapon, a braided belt. The Innocence Project contends that the State infringed on Reed’s rights by withholding information from his defense lawyers.
There was no DNA evidence of Reed’s being in the truck in which the crime supposedly happened. The only evidence was Fennell’s fingerprints and Stites’ decomposition liquid.
Reed’s case will be deliberated in the coming months in the trial courts of Bastrop, Texas. The Texas trial court will evaluate whether Reed is innocent of a crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to death over 20 years ago.