Judge Balks at Retrial for Death Row's Rodney Reed

More than 20 witnesses implicated another man in 1996 murder in Texas
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 19, 2021 3:14 PM CDT
Updated Nov 2, 2021 11:23 AM CDT
Rodney Reed's Lawyers Get Shot at Securing New Trial
This undated photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows inmate Rodney Reed.   (Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP)

Update: A Texas judge says a death row inmate backed by celebrities including Kim Kardashian West and Rihanna should not receive a new trial. The judge in Bastrop County said Rodney Reed—sentenced to death for the 1996 murder of a young woman—"has not proven by clear and convincing evidence that he is actually innocent," per the New York Times. Reed's lawyers said they presented more than 20 witnesses who implicated the victim's fiancé. The judge's recommendation now goes to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which will decide if 53-year-old Reed will get a new trial. Our original story from July 19 follows:

"Celebrities Go to Bat for Man Sentenced to Die," read Newser's own headline in 2019. Now, defense lawyers are getting the chance to go to bat for Rodney Reed. The Black man was sentenced to die for the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites in Bastrop, Texas, but Texas' top appeals court halted his execution just days before it was to take place in November 2019. CBS News reports that court sent the case back to trial court, where a two-week evidentiary hearing began on Monday that will see defense attorneys ask for a new trial. Their case, per KXAN: that Reed is innocent, that the state didn't hand over all exculpatory evidence, and that the prosecutors gave false testimony. Reed has maintained that he was having an affair with Stites, 19, and had consensual sex with her the day prior to her death.

His lawyers say the quantity of Reed's sperm detected in Stites' body syncs with that timeline, and that prosecutors withheld witness statements that supported Reed's claim the two were in a consensual relationship. At the original trial, prosecutors said there was no such relationship. They originally made the case that Stites was at home with her fiance, Jimmy Fennell, before leaving for work, and that Reed stopped her on the drive and raped and killed her. Reed's defense has argued that Stites was murdered by Fennell. Fennell, a former cop who served time for an unrelated sexual crime, will be called to testify. The Marshall Project reports that in 2019 an inmate signed an affidavit stating that sometime around 2010 Fennell confessed to him that he killed "my n----- loving fiancee." (More death row stories.)

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