Rodney Reed: Shock claim before man’s execution

Supporters of an American death row inmate facing execution in less than two weeks for a murder he says he didn’t commit are mounting a final push to save him.

Rodney Reed, 51, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on November 20 for the 1996 rape and murder of his secret girlfriend 19-year-old Stacey Stites near the Central Texas city of Bastrop.

Reed has always maintained his innocence and claims the real killer was her fiancé, a rookie police officer named Jimmy Fennell who was furious over her affair with a black man.

Fennell was released from jail last year after serving a 10 year sentence for kidnap and rape of a woman in his custody.

A white supremacist and former cellmate of the disgraced cop signed a bombshell affidavit last month claiming Fennell boasted about having killed Ms Stites and used a racial slur when referring to Reed.

The efforts by Reed and his lawyers at the Innocence Project to stop his execution have received support from such celebrities as Rihanna, Dr. Phil and Kim Kardashian West, who last month in a tweet asked Texas Governor Greg Abbott to “do the right thing.”

Reed’s lawyer and his brother, Rodrick Reed, believe race played a role in the case, pointing out that an all-white jury convicted Reed and that the case touched on “old tropes” about interracial relationships.

Reed’s attorneys in August filed a federal lawsuit to compel DNA testing of crime scene evidence. His lawyers say the testing, which has been fought for years by prosecutors, could identify someone else as the murderer. The lawsuit is still pending.

“To execute Mr. Reed would be a grave miscarriage of justice,” said Bryce Benjet, an lawyer with the Innocence Project, which is representing Reed.

But prosecutors say Reed’s semen was found in the victim, his claims of an affair with Ms Stites were not proven at trial, Fennell was cleared as a suspect and Reed had a history of committing other sexual assaults.’s-execution.webp”/>
media_cameraStacey Stites was murdered as she made her way to the supermarket in 1996. Picture: Supplied
Death row inmate Rodney Reed waves to his family in the Bastrop County District Court in Bastrop, Texas. Picture: Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via’s-execution.jpeg”/>
media_cameraDeath row inmate Rodney Reed waves to his family in the Bastrop County District Court in Bastrop, Texas. Picture: Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP

At Reed’s trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Reed had assaulted five other women and a 12-year-old girl. Reed’s lawyers have denied these accusations.

“Our office is dedicated to seeing that no innocent person is punished,” Texas Attorney-General’s Office spokeswoman Lisa Tanner said in a statement.

“This is simply not such a case and we owe it to Ms Stites’ family, friends and the many other victims of Mr Reed to see that justice is done at last.”

Fennell’s lawyer Bob Phillips said his client vehemently denies killing Ms Stites and that he was heartbroken by her death.

“All the evidence makes it plain as day that Rodney Reed is the killer and these fantastic 11th hour attempts to implicate Jimmy are the same song, 200th verse,” he said.

Reed’s attorneys allege his conviction was based on flawed evidence.

They say the prosecution’s claim that the semen found on Ms Stites pointed to a sexual assault has no basis in scientific literature.

They also say a review by defence experts puts Ms Stites’ likely time of death hours before she left for work, when she was in her apartment with Fennell.

Reed’s attorneys allege Fennell had a propensity for sexual assault and violence, which they say was confirmed by his conviction after Ms Stites’ death on a sexual assault charge from when he was a police officer.

From left: Rodney Reed, Stacey Stites and Jimmy Fennell. Picture:’s-execution.webp”/>
media_cameraFrom left: Rodney Reed, Stacey Stites and Jimmy Fennell. Picture: Supplied
Celebrity A-listers Kanye West, Kim Kardashian and Rhianna have thrown their support behind Rodney Reed. Picture: Angela Weiss /’s-execution.jpeg”/>
media_cameraCelebrity A-listers Kanye West, Kim Kardashian and Rhianna have thrown their support behind Rodney Reed. Picture: Angela Weiss / AFP

Mr Phillips said Fennell, who was paroled last year, has turned his life around and now helps substance abusers.

Arthur Snow, who was in the white supremacist Aryan Brotherhood when he served time in prison with Fennell, said in an October 29 affidavit that Fennell told him with pride that he had killed Ms Stites, whom he spoke of “with a lot of hatred and resentment,” because she had been having an affair with a black man.

That conversation happened in about 2010, Snow said, when he was a member of the n been a member of the Aryan Brotherhood. But he said in the affidavit that he has since let go of some of his prejudices — with the arrival of grandchildren, he has “started to look at the world differently” – and that he came forward after reading about Reed’s case over the years. He said it weighed on his conscience.

“I realised that Rodney Reed was sitting in prison for a murder that Jimmy Fennell had confessed to me that he had committed,” Snow said. “I had planned to come forward back then, but never did.”

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals last month denied Reed’s request for a stay of his execution. An appeal is pending with the US Supreme Court.

Reed’s lawyers have asked Gov Abbott to grant a 30-day reprieve and to review a possible commutation of his sentence.

On Tuesday, 26 Texas politicians — including 13 Democrats and 13 Republicans — sent Gov Abbott a letter asking for a reprieve. The European Union ambassador to the US has also

asked Abbott to intervene.

An online petition asking Abbott to stop Reed’s execution has garnered more than two million signatures.

Gov Abbott’s office didn’t immediately reply to an email seeking comment. He has granted just one reprieve to stop an execution since he came to office in January 2015.

“I believe with all of the support that we have been receiving, it should send a strong and powerful message to the governor and to the world as to my brother’s innocence. I am very hopeful that justice will be done in this case, not just for my brother, but for Stacey Ms Ms Stites as well,” Rodrick Reed said.

— With wires

Originally published as Shock claim before man’s execution

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