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Monday, November 11, 2019

Rodney Reed, Innocent Black Man on Death Row, to Be Executed on November 20th Gets Extension

Rodney Reed on Death Row

Nationwide — Rodney Reed, a 51-year old man who was wrongfully convicted of a rape and murder that he did not commit, was scheduled to be executed on November 20th in Texas but the state governor has granted him an extension. Several advocates and celebrities such as Beyonce, Rihanna, and Kim Kardashian West had signed a petition to prevent the execution. 

In 1996, Reed was accused of killing Stacey Stites, who was then 19-years old. He allegedly kidnapped her before raping and strangling her, leaving her body in a remote area of Bastrop, Texas.

Reed was eventually convicted of rape and murder by an all-white jury in 1998.

However, new evidence that could potentially exonerate him and instead implicate Stites’ fiancé Jimmy Fennell, a local police officer, has emerged.

Reed’s attorneys claimed the prosecution relied on a hunch and inaccurate science, testing recovered DNA against Reed, which became the sole basis of the case. Reed, who initially denied knowing Stites, later admitted that he had a relationship with her and the sperm found inside Stites’ body was because they had consensual sex the day before she was found dead.

Forensic witnesses in the original trial claimed that sperm could not survive for more than a day after sex so prosecutors believed that she was raped by Reed shortly before being murdered. New evidence, however, proved that sperm can stay intact for days after death, confirming that the main evidence linking Reed to her death was wrong as it lacked scientific support.

Additional forensic evidence also pointed toward Fennell. Fingerprints discovered from his pickup truck — which was reportedly used to kidnap Stites — matched only Stites and Fennell.

During the trial, several witnesses could have testified that Fennell found about their affair and threatened Reed, but they weren’t called.

Meanwhile, Fennel, who had a history of violence against women, was sent to jail for kidnapping and sexual assault soon after Rodney was imprisoned. While in jail, Fennel allegedly confessed to killing Stites, according to the affidavit filed by Arthur Snow Jr., a former prison inmate. Snow said he was in jail with Fennel when he said his fiancé had been sleeping around with a Black man behind his back, so he had to kill her.

“Toward the end of the conversation Jimmy said confidently, ‘I had to kill my n****r-loving fiancé,'” Snow wrote. “My impression was that Jimmy felt safe, even proud, sharing this information with me because I was a member of the Aryan Brotherhood. I think Jimmy assumed that his confession would impress me and earn him credibility with the Aryan Brotherhood.”

Over the years, Reed, who has been on death row for 21 years, maintained his innocence. The Innocence Project, an organization that aims to exonerate wrongly convicted people, is representing Reed.

Moreover, Reed has been receiving support from several people, including pastors, police officers, and celebrities. Almost 3 million people have signed the petition calling for Governor Greg Abbott to grant clemency, stop or delay the execution.