Over the past two weeks, Rodney Reed’s legal team presented its case that Mr. Reed deserves a new trial in light of newly discovered evidence that supports his innocence claim. At the hearing before District Judge J.D. Langley, his legal team also presented evidence that prosecutors had withheld evidence and experts had given misleading testimony at Mr. Reed’s original trial in 1998.
On July 29, the team rested its case. Now, it is preparing written and oral arguments, which include its findings and conclusions, that it will present to Judge Langley later this month. Judge Langley will then make his recommendations to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on whether Mr. Reed should be granted a new trial.
Mr. Reed has been on death row in Texas for more than 20 years and came within five days of being executed in November 2019. He was granted an indefinite stay of execution on Nov. 15, 2019, so that his innocence claims could be considered.
Mr. Reed was convicted for the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites — a crime he’s always said he didn’t commit. In fact, Mr. Reed said he and Ms. Stites had had a consensual relationship before she died, which explains the presence of his DNA. However, the two kept their relationship a secret because Ms. Stites was engaged and because they feared racist retaliation — Mr. Reed is Black, Ms. Stites was white.
At Mr. Reed’s original trial, the prosecution said no evidence of their relationship existed and claimed to have conducted an exhaustive, but fruitless, search for proof of their connection. However, witness interviews in the prosecution’s files at the time of Mr. Reed’s original trial show the prosecution was aware that Mr. Reed and Ms. Stites knew each other — yet this information was not turned over to Mr. Reed’s lawyers at the time, as the U.S. Constitution requires.
During Mr. Reed’s recent hearing, several witnesses testified that they knew Mr. Reed and Ms. Stites had had a relationship or had seen them together, further supporting what Mr. Reed has been saying for more than 20 years. Mr. Reed’s legal team also presented evidence that Jimmy Fennell, Ms. Stites’ fiancé at the time of her death who was originally suspected of killing her, had confessed to killing his fiancée after learning she had been having an affair with a Black man. Forensic experts also testified about Ms. Stites’ time of death and crime scene evidence that does not support the prosecution’s argument that Mr. Reed killed Ms. Stites.
The State then presented its own witnesses for cross-examination by Mr. Reed’s legal team during the second half of the hearing.
Throughout the hearing, Mr. Reed had the support of his family, including his brother who was able to attend the hearing in person, and millions of others who have rallied to support his fight for justice over the last few years.
I STAND WITH RODNEY REED pic.twitter.com/RAqd0f9LzK
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) July 16, 2021
During #RodneyReed’s evidentiary hearing today, prosecutors informed the court that time stamps on video footage of the crime scene are incorrect. This only raises further doubt about the accuracy of trial testimony related to time of death and other timeline issues.
— Sister Helen Prejean (@helenprejean) July 27, 2021
Yesterday was day 7 and today is day 8 of the hearing in #Bastrop #Texas. Big shout out to @MerrittForTexas for speaking out in support of #RodneyReed at the rally the Saturday before the hearing began. #PowerfulWords of support and inspiration were said. #FreeRodneyReed pic.twitter.com/eMa87k5aSm
— Cece.C (@_cececruz) July 28, 2021
At time of writing, Judge Langley is expected to make his recommendations by Aug. 31. Until then, Mr. Reed and his legal team will continue to push for justice.