On June 25, 2018, the United States Supreme Court denied a cert petition by Rodney Reed asking the Court to review a Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decision denying Reed access to DNA testing that could prove that he is innocent of the murder of Stacey Stites for which Reed has served more than 20 years on death row.
The following statement can be attributed to Innocence Project Senior Staff Attorney Bryce Benjet:
Rodney Reed has asked for DNA testing of crime scene evidence that would unquestionably have been tested if the murder were investigated today. Because such testing can provide dispositive proof of Mr. Reed’s innocence, the denial of DNA testing by the Texas courts violates fundamental constitutional norms.
Today, the United States Supreme Court declined to directly review the denial of DNA testing by the Texas courts. Although we had hoped that the Supreme Court would immediately take up the constitutional issues raised by the denial of DNA testing, we are also aware that the Court has recognized a separate procedure for federal review of DNA cases through a civil action brought in the United States District Court. We intend to pursue this remedy in the federal courts so that this important evidence can finally be tested.
In the 20 years since Mr. Reed’s trial, we have discovered substantial evidence that both exonerates Mr. Reed and implicates Ms. Stites’s fiance, Jimmy Fennell, as the murderer. The nation’s leading forensic experts have reviewed this case and determined that the State’s theory of Mr. Reed’s guilt is scientifically and medically impossible. The State’s key forensic witness, Roberto Bayardo, M.D., has recanted his opinion linking Mr. Reed to the murder. New witnesses have come forward, including Ms. Stites’s own cousin, who were aware that Mr. Reed and Ms. Stites were romantically involved. And while Fennell was a suspect all along, his best friend at the time, Bastrop Sheriff’s Officer Curtis Davis, has now revealed that Fennell gave an inconsistent account of where he was on the night of the murder. When asked to explain this discrepancy, Fennell declined to testify because his answers might further incriminate him.
Texas has been at the forefront of criminal justice reform and leads the nation in DNA exonerations. But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals continues to interpret the DNA law in a restrictive and unconstitutional manner. The Texas Legislature has repeatedly corrected the Court of Criminal Appeals by amending the DNA law, and we are confident that the Legislature will again express their overwhelming support for DNA testing to ensure that innocent men and women are not wrongfully imprisoned or executed. In the meantime, we will certainly seek all available redress in the federal courts.