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Not Too Late… This Time

W. Scott Cole

Posted on November 18, 2019 00:17

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In 1989, the State of Texas executed Carlos DeLuna. He was later found to be innocent of the murder he was convicted of. On November 15, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stopped the scheduled November 20 execution of another man who very likely is also innocent.

In 1996, nineteen year old Stacy Stites of Bastrop, Texas, was brutally strangled and left, partially unclothed on a county road. Rodney Reed was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to death for her murder. From the day of his arrest, Reed has maintained his innocence.

The evidence used to convict him was mostly circumstantial. It contained forensic and scientific errors and included the exclusion of another man against whom a better case could have probably been made.

Stacy Stites, a white woman, had been engaged to and living with a man named Jimmy Fennel and having an affair with Rodney Reed, who is black. Her fiancé was a police officer who was known to have violent tendencies.

On the night of her murder, said he had gotten off work, went to coach a little league team, had a few beers with friends, and went home, according to his statement, he was asleep when she went to work about midnight that night. He said they had discussed their future and that there were no problems in their relationship.

Half a belt that was determined to be the murder weapon was found beside her body and was taken into evidence. A forensic pathologist determined she died approximately 3:30 a.m. and Reed’s DNA was found inside her body, which the state said proved murder and rape.

In the 23 years since, the state has fought hard to keep the belt from being tested to determine whose DNA might be on it, several prominent forensic specialists have come forward after reviewing the evidence and stated that it was scientifically impossible for her to have died at 3:30 a.m. and that the time was probably closer to 10:00 p.m. the night before.

Several witnesses have come forward saying that the affair was known to many in the town and others have said that Ms. Stites and Fennel had been arguing a lot in the days before her death.

In 2007, Jimmy Fennel was convicted of raping a woman against the trunk of his patrol car and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. One of his cellmates in prison, a leader of the Aryan Brotherhood named Arthur Snow, wrote in an affidavit of support for Reed that Fennel confessed to him of killing Stacy, saying “I had to kill my n----- loving fiancé.”

Recently a wide range of people have been vocal about their support got Reed. The list includes Kim Kardashian, Mark Cuban, and state and federal politicians on both sides of the aisle, and a petition signed by over 3,000,000 people.

Appeals over the years have all been denied, with the most recent one being in 2018. The order by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals grants a stay of execution of 120 days and sends the case to the trial court with orders to review the evidence. There is a very good chance that review will result in another trial for Rodney Reed.

W. Scott Cole

Posted on November 18, 2019 00:17

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Texas’ top criminal appeals court on Friday halted the scheduled execution of inmate Rodney Reed, whose conviction is being...

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