Late Thursday, the Innocence Project filed a motion before a Texas court urging that it stay death row inmate Rodney Reed’s execution—scheduled for March 5—and order a new trial based on new evidence pointing to his innocence.
According to the motion, three respected forensic pathologist have recently reviewed evidence in connection with the case and concluded that the victim, Stacey Stites, was murdered much earlier than the prosecution claimed at trial, that she was killed in a different location and that her body was taken to the location where it was found by a land appraiser on the side of the road in the afternoon of April 23, 1996. The motion also includes affidavits from two of Stites’ former co-workers who corroborate Reed’s claims that he was having a clandestine romantic relationship with Stites.
Reed, who is black, maintains that they kept the relationship private because it was an interracial relationship in a small Texas community and because Stites was engaged to Jimmy Fennell, a former police officer with the Georgetown police department. These new facts provide strong new evidence supporting the defense theory that Stites was murdered by Fennell who is now in prison for the sexual assault of a woman while on the job.
“In addition to the recantation by the original medical examiner, we now have three of the nation’s most respected medical examiners agreeing that Mr. Reed couldn’t possibly have committed this crime as prosecutors claimed,” said Bryce Benjet, a staff attorney with the Innocence Project, who has been representing Reed since before he joined the Innocence Project. “Recent Texas law makes it clear that when there is new scientific evidence showing that the defendant is probably innocent, the conviction must be overturned, which is clearly the case here,” says Benjet.
“Mr. Reed is scheduled to be executed in just a few weeks. Given the mounting evidence of his innocence, we hope state officials will grasp the gravity of the situation and stay his execution,” said Andrew MacRae, an attorney with Levantino Pace LLP in Austin who is representing Reed. “It is almost certain he would have never been convicted in the first place and certainly deserves another chance to prove his innocence.”
This Sunday, February 15, the Friends Meeting of Austin will host a press conference and meeting in support of Rodney Reed. Death penalty advocate Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, will speak. The public is welcome.
If you’re in the Austin area, please attend.
The meeting will start at 2:00 p.m CST at the Meeting House, located at 3701 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Austin, Texas, 78721. If you attend, tweet your photos using the handle @innocence and hashtag #RodneyReed and we’ll post highlights.
To learn more about Reed’s case, tune in to Monday’s episode of Dead Again on A&E. The two-hour episode will center entirely on recent efforts to expose the truth around Reed’s wrongful conviction. The Dead Again episode—“Dead Man Talking”—will air at 9/8c p.m. on Monday, February 16.
A copy of the habeas petition filed today
is available here