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Rodney Reed’s execution date put on hold

New evidence may be allowed

Isabell Rivera OW Contributor | 11/21/2019, midnight

Rodney Reed has been all over the news for the past couple of months, since his case stirred up quite a commotion, even among celebrities. Reed has been incarcerated for the past 21 years, for a crime he said he didn’t commit.

Reed was sentenced to death for the murder and rape of 19-year-old Stacey Stites. Nov. 20 was scheduled to be the date of his execution, but thanks to the Innocence Project and various petitions to stop his execution, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals put a hold on his execution for 120 days. Supporters hope to come up with new evidence to help his case.

Reed has maintained his innocence and although there’s a hold on his execution date, he’s still not a free man. The Innocence Project senior staff attorney Bryce Benjey, who is Reed’s lawyer in the case has filed a petition to the United States Supreme Court, demanding it to review new and complete evidence, after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected important evidence of Reed’s innocence in his conviction for the 1996 murder of Stites.

The only evidence reportedly found against Reed was his DNA, which he confirmed was present because he claims he had a discreet and reportedly consensual sexual relationship with Stites. However, at the time of the trial, no witnesses came forward in Reed’s favor. But now Stites’ cousin, as well as a co-worker, have confirmed Reed’s relationship to Stites.

The alleged murder weapon - a belt - was reportedly never tested for DNA evidence. Although, DNA testing of the crime scene evidence has been frequently requested, it has been denied regularly by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Reed’s lawyers are convinced that a more thorough investigation of DNA tests of the crime scene would prove Reed’s innocence. This request has been denied. Therefore, a federal court lawsuit was filed, as well as a petition to stop the execution.

The new evidence, if allowed to assists in Reed’s defense, would both overturn the state’s case and also verify the investigation by the police department and its initial suspicions of former police officer Jimmy Fennell, who was Stites’ fiancé. Fennell was the prime suspect for months after Stites’ murder, according to the police investigation, which now indicates that Fennell was driven to murder Stites because of her relationship with another man.

Fennell, who was recently released after a 10-year prison sentence for kidnapping and assaulting another woman, is now being questioned because of inconsistent statements about where he was at the time of Stites’ murder. Reed’s lawyers have said the new evidence includes statements from two witnesses who claim to have information on Fennell that links him to the case. The first witness, an insurance salesperson, stated that he overheard Fennell threaten to kill Stites if he discovered she was cheating on him. The second witness was a deputy in the Lee County Sheriff’s Office at the time of the murder. That witness reportedly overheard Fennell making disturbing and alarming statements about Stites at her funeral, allegedly saying, “You got what you deserved.”