The Economist on Rodney Reed: Evidence ‘may cast doubt on the validity of Mr Reed’s conviction’

September 23, 2019

The Economist has published an article on Rodney’s case, outlining the facts that have so many questioning Rodney’s conviction. They conclude with:

“But the most distressing flaw of capital punishment is well illustrated by the uncertainties in Mr Reed’s story: the risk that the state may execute innocent people”

Also, Filmmakers for Justice has published Part 2 of their “A Plea for Justice” series. “A Credible Witness” highlights the testimony of Alicia Slater, Stacey Stites’ coworker. Ms. Slater claims that Stacey was not excited about marrying her fiance and that she was seeing someone else.


Face the Forensics! Rally for Rodney Reed this weekend

Rally for Justice for Rodney! Stop the Execution!
Saturday, September 21, 2019, 4:00 – 7:00 pm
Kerr Community Center, Bastrop, TX
https://www.facebook.com/events/496828670878421/

Please join us for a community event supporting Rodney Reed and his family to stop the execution scheduled for November 20, 2019. We must demand that Gov. Greg Abbott and the State of Texas stop the execution and grant the DNA testing and day in court that Rodney deserves!

We are so honored to welcome Anthony Graves and his mother to this event. Anthony spent 18 years on Texas death row for a crime he did not commit before being exonerated and later freed in 2010. 

We will also hear remarks from:
Death Row Exonerees from Witness to Innocence
-Derrick Jamison, spent 20 years on Ohio’s death row for a crime he did not commit
-Albert Burrell, spent 13 years on Louisiana’s death row in Angola Prison for a crime he did not commit
Ron Keine, spent 2 years on New Mexico’s death row for a crime he did not commit

Deke Pierce, law enforcement officer with 28 years of experience
Robert L. Muhammad, leader of Austin Nation of Islam
Kevin Gannon, Retired NYPD detective from A&E’S Dead Again
-Sandra Reed, Rodney’s mother
Rodrick Reed, Rodney’s brother
-and other special guests!

Please join us to send a loud and clear message to Texas officials:
FACE THE FORENSICS: RODNEY REED IS INNOCENT!

New Coverage of Rodney’s Case

September 19, 2019

Following the recent tweets by activist Sister Helen Prejean, The Guardian has published a new article on Rodney’s case. They note that after the Innocence Project filed a civil rights lawsuit in Texas courts last month, Rodney’s case has caught the attention of the Texas state representative Vikki Goodwin.

Additionally, there are new videos to watch and share. Check out Part One of the series below.

Sister Helen Prejean tweets in support of Rodney

September 4, 2019

Sister Helen Prejean, renowned death penalty abolitionist and author of Dead Man Walking, tweeted this week in support of Rodney Reed.

“If prosecutors are confident that Rodney is guilty, then why block DNA testing? Maybe it’s because there was another suspect who failed multiple polygraph tests but was never thoroughly investigated. That man went on to do prison time for other crimes against women”

That man is Jimmy Fennell, the fiance of Stacey Stites. Fennell spent ten years in prison for the rape of a woman in his custody as a Georgetown, Texas, police officer.

You can read the tweet thread here. Full text is below.

She also questioned the timing of Rodney’s latest execution date:

“June 29: Rodney Reed’s family speaks at an anti-death penalty event in D.C.
July 11: Local newspaper in Bastrop, TX, prints a front-page article about the Reed family’s advocacy.
July 15: Bastrop DA’s office requests an execution date for Rodney.

Coincidence? Doubt it.”

Sister Helen has supported Rodney for many years. She traveled to Austin, Texas, to show her support in February 2015. In an interview with Al Jazeera, she spoke of Rodney’s innocence and the racism at the heart of the US justice system.

Text of Sister Helen’s tweet thread, September 2, 2019:

“Texas plans to execute Rodney Reed on November 20th. Prosecutors and lawyers for the state have rep”eatedly blocked DNA testing on several items found at the crime scene. In other words, they want to execute Rodney without ever doing tests that could prove he is innocent.

If prosecutors are confident that Rodney is guilty, then why block DNA testing? Maybe it’s because there was another suspect who failed multiple polygraph tests but was never thoroughly investigated. That man went on to do prison time for other crimes against women.

The alternative suspect, Jimmy Fennell, was Stacey Stites’s fiancé. He failed the polygraph on this question: “Did you strangle Stacey?” He was never thoroughly investigated after failing the test. Why? It might have something to do with his role as a local police officer.

A Dallas-area police officer has come forward with a chilling story. At a police training session in 1995, Jimmy Fennell said he would strangle his girlfriend with a belt (no fingerprints) if he ever caught her cheating. Stacey Stites was strangled with her own belt in 1996.

In 2007, Jimmy Fennell raped a woman he had detained while on-duty as a police officer in Georgetown, Texas. He put a gun against her head and told her that he would hunt her down and kill her if she reported the rape. He was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to 10 years.

Are prosecutors and police trying to hide something by blocking DNA testing of crime scene evidence? There are so many red flags in Rodney Reed’s case. Why the rush to execute him now?”

Stop the November 20, 2019 Execution of Rodney Reed!

August 12, 2019

The State of Texas has once again failed to provide justice for Rodney Reed. Earlier this summer, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied Rodney’s latest appeal. The day after Rodney’s family was featured on the front of the Bastrop Advertiser, Bastrop DA Bryan Goertz asked for an execution date for Rodney. Judge Doug Shaver granted the motion, setting the execution date for November 20, 2019.

Rodney Reed is innocent! The evidence that has been uncovered just in the last few years is overwhelming – new forensics analysis shows that Stacey Stites was murdered much earlier than was claimed at trial, and that she was not raped, as the state also argued. The state has fought DNA testing on the murder weapon and is now trying to execute another innocent man!

Rodney’s family and supporters are fighting this grave injustice with all we’ve got! Please stay tuned for updates on how to get involved in the struggle to stop this execution and bring Rodney home! On Facebook, please follow Reed Justice Initiative and We Demand Justice: Free Rodney Reed!

Rodney’s lawyers at the Innocence Project recently filed a civil rights lawsuit on his behalf:

https://www.kvue.com/article/news/local/rodney-reeds-lawyers-file-federal-civil-rights-lawsuit-against-texas/269-5cbcede3-246f-4bec-9031-51f6f5c700a5?

Rodney Reed is visited on Death Row by his mother Sandra Reed, his brother Rodrick, and Rodrick’s son RJ

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.

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.