Author Archives: justice4rodneyreed

Opinion: Texas refuses to test DNA that’ll prove Rodney Reed’s innocence

https://www.statesman.com/news/local/opinion-texas-refuses-test-dna-that-prove-rodney-reed-innocence/8IzwoyvqSBCR9MCs4DzBXP/

From the Austin American Statesman, July 7 2018
By Sandra Reed

The state of Texas still wants to take my son’s life even after all the facts of his innocence were presented in court. A world-renowned pathologist testified that my son — Rodney Reed — couldn’t have committed the murder of Stacey Stites. But the state of Texas refuses to DNA test all the evidence.

DNA put my son on death row, but we now know that DNA had nothing to do with the murder — it was old. And the jury wasn’t told all the results. For example, the jury never learned of a state DNA report from the time of my son’s 1998 trial of beer cans found at the scene that excluded Rodney Reed and implicated two police officers and the deceased drank from the same cans. How can the state hide DNA evidence at his trial and then prevent testing it now? Why not test the remaining evidence, such as the belt they say was the murder weapon?

Technology is far more advanced than it was 20 years ago and can go back thousands of years. Surely, they can go back 20 years.

Tell me, what happened to the reasonable doubt? What happened to compassion? What happened to empathy? What happened to justice? My son didn’t receive any of the above. Why is Texas determined to take my son Rodney Reed’s life, based on old DNA, seemingly corrupt cops, lawyers, and yes, all of the state’s experts who said my son was guilty have since recanted their testimony. There’s no proof, all that remains is the age-old prejudice that a white girl wouldn’t be involved with my son.

God said: “Vengeance is [His].” Texas, you have borne false witness against my son. Texas, how can you ignore all facts and findings presented to you? There is nothing saying that Rodney Reed committed the murder, and everything points to someone else.

My son’s experience has opened my eyes to the fact that there are many innocent lives on death row. Corruption put them there — the same corruption that sent our old sheriff to prison, and that continues to cover up the abuse our community has suffered for generations. There should be no death penalty, and the justice system needs to seek the truth. The Reed family thanks the lawyers and all the supporters and prayers. God Bless you all.

Advertisements

Expert Witnesses Admit Error in Case of Man Who Has Served 22 Years on Texas’ Death Row, Prompting New Appeal

(What follows is a June press release from Rodney’s legal team)

Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Lab Director And Other Experts Acknowledge Error in Testimony at Rodney Reed’s Capital Murder Trial 

Contact: Paul Cates, (212) 364-5346, pcates@innocenceproject.org

(June 27, 2018 – Bastrop, TX) Lawyers for death row inmate Rodney Reed late yesterday filed an Application for Writ of Habeas Corpus before a Texas court today containing candid admissions of error from the expert witnesses who were called by the state at Reed’s 1998 Bastrop County trial for the murder of Stacey Stites. Attached to the Application are letters and affidavits from the state’s three key expert witnesses admitting errors in the testimony which led to Reed’s conviction and sentence of death. This now-recanted expert testimony provided a crucial link between Reed’s DNA and the murder and was used to refute Reed’s long-maintained insistence that he is innocent of the crime but was involved in a consensual sexual relationship with Stites.

The papers filed today show:

  • Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Lab Director Brady Mills has acknowledged “limitations” in Department of Public Safety Serologist Karen Blakely’s testimony at Reed’s trial. Citing a scientific study, Blakely testified that finding Reed’s intact spermatozoa meant that the sperm could not have been left more than 26 hours before her examination. This opinion essentially ruled out Reed’s defense that he and Stites had consensual sex in the days before her murder. (The state argued that since Stites’ whereabouts were accounted for most of the day before the murder, the only possible explanation for Reed’s sperm being in the victim’s body was that he had raped before her murder.) Crime Lab Director Brady Mills now admits that Blakely misstated the science and that the paper she cited actually confirms that Reed’s intact sperm could have been found up to 3 days after intercourse.
  • LabCorp Technical Leader Stephanie Sivak has issued a report finding errors in the testimony of retained state’s expert, LabCorp serologist Meghan Clement. Clement testified at Reed’s trial that in her experience of over 10 years examining thousands of rape kits, she had never seen intact spermatozoa more than 24 hours old. LabCorp Technical Leader Sivak now admits that this testimony was in error and that Clement should not have bolstered her erroneous opinion by referencing her experience. In a separate affidavit, another LabCorp serologist, Purnima Bokka, M.S., states that studies have found intact spermatazoa on vaginal swabs taken 72-144 hours after intercourse—more than three times as long as Clement testified at Mr. Reed’s trial.
  • Former Travis County Medical Examiner Roberto Bayardo, M.D., has also recanted much of his testimony that was used to implicate Reed at his 1998 trial. Although Bayardo testified that Reed’s semen was left “quite recently,” he has now changed his opinion. In a sworn declaration, Bayardo states that his finding “very few” sperm indicated that Reed and Stites had sex “not less than 24 hours before Ms. Stites’s death.” Dr. Bayardo has also more generally recanted any opinion he offered which linked Mr. Reed to a sexual assault and murder of Ms. Stites.

These new admissions of error by the State’s own experts come on the tails of a lengthy hearing conducted last fall that focused on inconsistent statements made by Stites’s fiancé, Jimmy Fennell.

Fennell, who was recently released after serving a 10 year prison term for a sex crime, told his best friend in 1996 that he had been out drinking on the night Stites’s was murdered. However, he testified at Reed’s trial that he and Stites spent a quiet evening at home. When called to explain this discrepancy at the October 2017 hearing, Fennell refused to testify, asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Renown forensic pathologist Michael Baden, M.D. also testified at the hearing last fall that the condition of Stites’s body rendered the state’s theory of Reed’s guilt impossible. Where the state argued Stites was killed between 3-5 a.m. on April 23, 1996, the evidence showed that Stites was actually killed before midnight on April 22nd, during the time Fennell testified he was with Stites in their apartment. Baden’s testimony was corroborated by two other leading experts and uncontradicted by the state.

This new Application will be considered by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and could result in the case being remanded for another hearing in the Bastrop District Court. Reed is represented by Innocent Project Senior Staff Attorney Bryce Benjet; Morris Overstreet of Prairie View, Texas; Andrew MacRae of Levatino Pace PLLC; and Michelle Davis of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, and Flom, LLP. Morris Overstreet is a retired judge and prosecutor who previously served on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Rodney headed back to court on October 10, 2017

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals recently issued a ruling in the Rodney’s case – ordering new  a hearing in front of the Bastrop District Court.

The hearing is set to begin on October 10 and run for 3-4 days. The hearing was granted to examine a witness statement uncovered in a yet to be aired CNN interview that further cast doubt on the whereabouts of Jimmy Fennell, Jr., who was Stacey’s fiance at the time of her murder, and who many consider to be the real perpetrator of the crime.

From a recent KXAN story:

“Reed’s attorneys say Fennell gave conflicting accounts about his actions the night his fiancé was strangled with a belt. Fennell told police he was at home the night of April 22, 1996, and the following morning. Fennell said he had been at home and fell asleep before Stites left early in the morning to drive from Giddings to an H-E-B grocery store in Bastrop, according to court records. She never arrived for her morning shift.

Reed’s defense team says it has evidence that Fennell told a different story to Bastrop Sheriff’s Office Deputy Curtis Davis. In a recorded interview, Davis said he was with Fennell the morning Stites disappeared, after it was reported, and Fennell said he had been out the night before drinking and came home late. Fennell’s statement to Davis could cast doubt on his alibi.”

The Court of Criminal Appeals has reviewed Rodney’s case many times, and leading up to his execution date, they ordered hearings to review whether or not Rodney should receive DNA testing on key items from the crimes scene. The hearings were held by the Bastrop district court, which recommended against testing, following which, the CCA denied his appeal and he received the March 5, 2015 execution date. However, that was halted based on new evidentiary claims. An appeal to grant the DNA testing was subsequently denied in 2016.

The court has had Rodney’s recent appeal in front of them since 2015 – in which Rodney argues that he has proven his innocence through all the evidence put forward , including newly discovered forensic evidence casting doubt on the time of Stacey’s death, that was presented at trial. The court didn’t agree with Rodney’s claim that new evidence proved his innocence. But they agreed with his claim that the prosecution withheld newly discovered evidence that supports his innocence claim, saying the evidence “shows that the State presented false and misleading testimony, which violated his right to due process.”

The order states that, ”

“After reviewing the 2016 application, we find that applicant has failed to make a prima facie showing of actual innocence. However, we further find that his Brady and false testimony claims do satisfy the requirements of Article 11.071 § 5. Accordingly, we remand those claims to the trial court for resolution. Applicant has also filed in this Court and the trial court a “Motion for Deposition of Curtis Davis.” We leave it to the trial court to rule on this motion as it sees fit.”

This marks the first time since Rodney’s execution was halted in 2015 that there is a positive action from the courts regarding Rodney’s appeal. This latest piece of evidence is just one more link in the chain that binds Fennell to Stacey’s murder – and shows that Rodney is innocent! Rodney supporters will be working to build a presence at the hearings – as well as a series of activities to support Rodney over the next few months. Please check back at the upcoming events page here and on Facebook.com/texasinjustic for more information.

Court Denies Rodney Reed’s Request for DNA Testing

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Austin American Statesman reports:

Texas’ highest criminal court Wednesday denied death row inmate Rodney Reed’s request for DNA testing on items related to the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites in Bastrop County.

The 8-0 decision by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said the possibility of cross-contamination limited the usefulness of many of the items Reed wanted tested, and results from other items would not have resulted in his acquittal.

The court also said that Rodney failed to prove that the request for testing “was not for the purpose of unreasonable delay”, a claim insulting on its face, but especially because this court waited more than two years to make this ruling.

This denial is disheartening, but it is separate from Rodney’s habeas petition also filed in February of 2015, based on new forensic evidence, that contests the timeline of the version of events claimed by the State.

Follow the We Demand Justice facebook page for calls to action and next steps.
https://www.facebook.com/texasinjustice/

The CCA’s full opinion can be read here.

 

TWO YEARS OF WAITING ON THE CCA: march and rally planned in Bastrop

There have been few updates on this site since Rodney Reed won a historic stay of execution in February of 2015. His lawyers have filed motions and his supporters have held rallies. Rodney’s father passed away, his mother’s house flooded, and children and grandchildren have been added to the Reed family. But in TWO YEARS, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) has done nothing to look into the DNA evidence that it begrudgingly considered strong enough to warrant delaying an unjust execution. And still Rodney Reed, and innocent man, sits in a tiny cell on Texas death row.

In October 2016, new voices were added to those calling for Reed’s release. Crime Watch Daily reported that one juror who voted to send Reed to death row now she says she has regrets. “I voted guilty,” she says. “I stand by the decision because I based it on the evidence presented and what I knew at the time. Since then there have been a lot of things that I’ve learned in that 20 years, heard about, that have made me wonder if Rodney was framed.”

Rodney’s family and supporters will call attention to these disgraceful two years by holding a march and rally in Bastrop, Texas. Join us for a community cookout on Saturday, March 11, 3:00PM-9:00PM at the Kerr Community Center, 1308 Walnut St, Bastrop. Bring a dish or a cash donation for the potluck.

RSVP on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/185225585299528/?

Updates happen most frequently on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/texasinjustice/

 

pic1

Updated: Thanks to everyone who came out in the rain to show their support. We had our cookout indoors and spirits were high!

rodney shirtsrodney group

One year later: Rodney Reed, still not freed

March and rally in Bastrop, TX, will demand the Texas courts move forward in the Rodney Reed case

18 years meme

It’s been one year since the Texas courts issued a stay of execution to Rodney Reed, an innocent man on death row. In that year, the courts have done nothing to correct their injustices while Rodney continues to live in a cage that measures only 60 sq ft, confined alone for 23 hours a day. On the anniversary of last year’s victory, we will remind the small town of Bastrop and the state of Texas that we have not forgotten. Justice for Rodney Reed and Justice for Stacey Stites!

Join Rodney’s family, friends, supporters, and a film crew from A&E for a short march through Rodney’s hometown of Bastrop and a community potluck. We’ll have music, Texas brisket, and a message for the Court of Criminal Appeals: We Demand Justice: Free Rodney Reed!

There will be a carpool for those traveling from Austin to Bastrop. Sign up at https://goo.gl/KN5s4A to become a driver or secure a seat.

Contact lily (at) nodeathpenalty.org for more information.
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/948852951860115/ 

JUSTICE JAM: Community BBQ to Free Rodney Reed

Rodney Reed and his supporters are still waiting on a ruling from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA). It’s been five months since the CCA put the brakes on Rodney’s scheduled execution while it decides if it will hear the explosive new evidence brought forward by Rodney’s lawyers; it seems that the wheels of Texas justice turn very slowly.

But while the CCA stays silent, Rodney’s legal team and supporters continue our work to win his freedom. Join us in Rodney’s hometown of Bastrop for an afternoon of music and Texas BBQ in support of Rodney Reed. Featuring performances by: Kalu JamesLas Krudas Cubensi, an original song written for Rodney performed by Rodney’s cousins, and a DJ set by Rodney’s brother Richard Reed.

If you can’t make it to Bastrop but would like to support the event,  please make a donation online

justice jam flyer

Suggested donation $10 (or more!). Donations are on a sliding scale and no one will be turned away for lack of funds. To buy a ticket (or make a donation) online visit:
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/justice-jam-a-community-bbq-for-rodney-reed-tickets-17502129340

Money raised will go to Rodney’s legal defense fund and support campaign materials. See you in the park!

JUSTICE JAM: COMMUNITY BBQ TO FREE RODNEY REED
Saturday, July 18, 2015 at 4:00PM. Bastrop, TX
Kerr Community Center, Bastrop, Texas
https://www.facebook.com/events/858037530956659/