News 10.11.19

10 Facts You Need to Know About Rodney Reed, Who is Scheduled for Execution on November 20

By Innocence Staff

Rodney Reed on Texas death row in September 2019. Photo courtesy of Tiffany McMillan.

Rodney Reed, who maintains his innocence, has been on death row for the past 21 years for the murder of Stacey Stites in Bastrop, Texas. Since his trial, there is substantial evidence that exonerates Reed and implicates Stites’ fiancé Jimmy Fennell, a local police officer. Reed is scheduled for execution on November 20, 2019, despite an enormous amount of evidence that supports his innocence.

 Watch: Dr. Phil interview Rodney Reed

Here are key facts you should know about his case:

  1. The murder weapon has never been tested for DNA evidence. Requests for DNA testing of crime scene evidence, including a belt that was used as the murder weapon has been repeatedly denied by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. In 2018, the United States Supreme Court declined to directly review the Texas courts’ denial of DNA testing.
  2. The state’s three forensic experts have admitted on the record to errors in their testimony, which led to Reed’s conviction and death sentence. The three forensic experts from Reed’s original trial have submitted affidavits that the original time of death is inaccurate, which makes the timeline for Reed killing Stites implausible.
  3. Renown forensic pathologists including Michael Baden, M.D., Werner Spitz, M.D., LeRoy Riddick, M.D., and Cyril Wecht, M.D. have all concluded that Reed’s guilt is medically and scientifically impossible. The prosecution’s only forensic evidence linking Reed to the crime was semen taken from Stites’s body, which was attributed to the consensual relationship between them. The prosecution used this to connect him to the murder and refute this consensual romantic relationship, but supporting testimony has since been recanted and completely discredits the state’s case.
  4. Rodney Reed and Stacey Stites were having a consensual sexual relationship. At the time of the trial, no one came forward to corroborate their relationship. Today, new witnesses including Stites’s own cousin and co-worker have corroborated Reed’s claim that they knew that Reed and Stites were romantically involved.
  5. For months after the murder, Jimmy Fennell was the prime suspect in the case. A recording of one of the police investigators indicates that Fennell was suspected in the murder of Stites, motivated by her relationship with another man. 
  6. Fennell’s best friend at the time of the crime, Bastrop Sheriff’s Officer Curtis Davis, has now revealed that Fennell gave an inconsistent account of where he was on the night of the murder. Fennell had told his friend he was out drinking on the night Stites was murdered. Contradicting this claim, he later stated he was with Stites in their apartment during what we now know was the actual time of her death, based on Dr. Michael Baden’s updated testimony. When asked to explain this discrepancy, Fennell declined to testify because his answers might further incriminate him.
  7. Two witnesses have come forward in recent weeks and submitted signed affidavits that add to the mounting evidence against Jimmy Fennell. These affidavits include testimony from an insurance salesperson who stated that Fennell threatened to kill Stites while applying for life insurance. The second witness was a Deputy in the Lee County Sheriff’s Office at the time of the murder, who Fennell made an alarming and incriminating statement to at Stites’s funeral regarding her body.
  8. Fennell later served a 10-year prison term for a sex crime and kidnapping. Law enforcement records also document a pattern of violence against women perpetrated by Fennell. 
  9. This case was racially charged: Reed, a black man, was found guilty of murdering Stites, a white woman by an all-white jury.
  10. Take action: You can help stop this execution by sharing this article and adding your name to this petition.

Related: Racial bias against defendants of color and in favor of white victims has a strong effect on who is capitally prosecuted, sentenced to death, and executed

Leave a reply

  1. John johnson says:

    I live in the UK where the death sentence has been abolished with the majority of its inhabitants agreeing with the decision. Capital punishment plays no part in a civilized country other than to perpetrate unrest. As a son whose Mother was murdered I am still unable to support capital punishment. This case of Rodney is a prime example of why the penalty should be abolished no one should be punished when there is doubt over their guilt. We all know how we feel when unjustly accused of a minor act, how much more unjust must this be? The least response should be that a full investigation and fair retrial takes place.

  2. Jerrell Johnson says:

    Rodney Reed execution should be delayed, and no one should be executed including, Rodney Reed, if their is reasonalbe evidence of their innocence or possible reasonable evidence of their innocence.

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