This story was updated on Dec. 11, 2020. Rodney Reed, who maintains his innocence, has been on death row for more than 22 years for the murder of Stacey Stites in Bastrop, Texas. Since his in 1998 trial, substantial evidence exonerates Rodney and implicates Stacey’s then-fiancé Jimmy Fennell, a former local police officer. On Nov. 15, 2019, Rodney was granted an indefinite stay of execution, just five days before his scheduled execution date of Nov. 20, 2019. He is awaiting a new hearing, which has been delayed to May 17, 2021, due to COVID-19. The pandemic has also limited Rodney’s visits and phone calls with loved ones.
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Here are key facts you should know about his case:
- The murder weapon has never been tested for DNA evidence. Requests for DNA testing of crime scene evidence, including of a belt that was used as the murder weapon, have been repeatedly denied by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. And the United States Supreme Court declined to directly review the Texas courts’ denial of DNA testing in 2018.
- The State’s forensic experts have admitted to errors in their testimonies, which led to Rodney’s conviction and death sentence. State witnesses from Rodney’s original trial have since submitted affidavits stating that testimony given related to Stacey’s time of death was inaccurate, making the prosecution’s timeline of Rodney allegedly killing her implausible.
- Rodney Reed and Stacey Stites were having a consensual sexual relationship. At the time of the trial, no one came forward to corroborate their relationship. But today, new witnesses including Stacey’s own cousin and co-worker have corroborated Rodney’s claim that they knew that he and Stacey were romantically involved.
- Renowned forensic pathologists have concluded that Rodney’s guilt is medically and scientifically impossible. The prosecution’s only forensic evidence linking Rodney to the crime was semen taken from Stacey’s body, which was attributed to the consensual relationship between them. The prosecution used this to connect him to the murder and refute their consensual romantic relationship, but the testimony supporting this theory has since been recanted, completely discrediting the State’s case.
- For months after the murder, Jimmy Fennell, Stacey’s fiancé, was the prime suspect in the case. A recording of one of the police investigators indicates that Jimmy was suspected in Stacey’s murder, and he was believed to be motivated by her relationship with another man.
- Jimmy’s best friend at the time of the crime, Bastrop Sheriff’s Officer Curtis Davis, has now revealed that Jimmy gave an inconsistent account of where he was on the night of the murder. Jimmy had told his friend he was out drinking on the night Stacey was murdered. But he later stated he was with Stacey in the apartment they shared during what we now know was the actual time of her death, based on Dr. Michael Baden’s updated testimony, which contradicts his initial claim. When asked to explain this discrepancy, Jimmy declined to testify because his answers might further incriminate him.
- Two witnesses have recently come forward and submitted signed affidavits that add to the mounting evidence against Jimmy Fennell. These affidavits include testimony from an insurance salesperson who stated that Jimmy threatened to kill Stacey while applying for life insurance. The second witness was a Deputy in the Lee County Sheriff’s Office at the time of the murder to whom Jimmy made an alarming and incriminating statement regarding Stacey’s body at her funeral.
- Jimmy later served a 10-year prison term for a sex crime and kidnapping he committed while on duty. Law enforcement records also document a pattern of violence against women perpetrated by Jimmy.
- This case was racially charged. Rodney, a Black man, was found guilty of murdering Stacey, a white woman, by an all-white jury.
- A confession by Jimmy Fennell has come to light. On Oct. 29, 2019 Arthur Snow, a former member of the Aryan Brotherhood and Jimmy’s prison mate, disclosed that Jimmy had confessed to murdering Stacey stating, “I had to kill my n*****-loving fiancée,” in a conversation.
Learn more about Rodney Reed and his life before he was wrongfully convicted.