Rodney Reed: Innocent on Death Row
Rodney Reed has been on Texas death row since 1998. He was convicted of killing Bastrop woman Stacey Stites in 1996. In 2005, a new evidentiary hearing in front of the Bastrop trial judge was ordered by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. In March of 2006, Judge Reva Towslee-Corbett (daughter of the original trial judge) heard testimony from several witnesses which linked Stacey's fiancée and former police officer Jimmy Fennell to the crime. The defense also showed how some of this eyewitness testimony was hidden from the defense at the time of trial. However, the judge declined to recommend that the CCA grant a new trial. In 2008, the CCA ruled to deny relief, sending the case back into the federal courts. Hidden eyewitness evidence is not the only problem in this case. Consider these facts:
- The prosecution’s only evidence linking Rodney to the crime was semen DNA taken from Stacey’s body. However, defense attorneys at trial failed to call witnesses to testify to a known sexual relationship between Rodney and Stacey, which would have accounted for the DNA evidence. They also failed to call two alibi witnesses.
- During the initial investigation the main suspect was Giddings police officer Jimmy Fennell, who was Stacey’s fiancée. Fennell failed a polygraph test on the question “Did you strangle Stacey Stites?”
- Police failed to search Stacey and Fennell’s apartment, the last place she was known to be alive. Additionally, police released the truck Stacey was driving the night of the murder to Fennell, who sold the truck a few days later..
- Two beer cans found at the scene of the crime tested positive for the DNA of at least one police officer. This test was not reported to the defense at the time of the trial.
- At the 2006 hearings, Martha Barnett testified to seeing Stacey and Fennell together the morning of the murder. Mary Blackwell testified that during a police academy class she overheard Fennell saying that he would kill his girlfriend if she cheated on him, and that he would strangle her with a belt, which was how Stacey was killed. Both women testified that they had shared their stories with the prosecutors at the time of trial.
- Defense attorney's have shown a pattern of violence on the part of Fennell, including his history of stalking and threatening former girlfriends. Fennell was recently sentenced to prison for the rape of a woman who was in his custody while he was on duty as a police officer in the city of Georgetown, TX.
- Rodney Reed, a black man, was found guilty of murdering Stacey Stites, a white woman, by an all white jury in Bastrop. Statistics have shown that racial bias exists in the application of the death penalty, including the fact that although over 50% of murder victims are black, over 83% of the victims in death penalty cases are white.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
1. Get involved with Texas activists who are fighting for Rodney's freedom. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 512-494-0667 for more information
2. Make a donation to help raise funds for Rodney's legal fund. You can send a check to:
Texas Defender Service
510 S Congress Suite 304
Austin, TX 78704
Donations should be marked clearly for Rodney Reed Defense. Unfortunately, these donations are not tax-deductible.
3. Make a donation to the Campaign to End the Death Penalty's ongoing work of publishing articles and materials for Rodney, organizing protests and petition drives, and bringing Rodney's family to conventions and meetings to speak out about his case.
4. Read up on the case. Jordan Smith, reporter for the Austin Chronicle, has written extensively about Rodney's case. You can find her articles here.
5. Collect signatures for Rodney's petition. You can find the online petition here.
6. Read and share the Justice for Rodney Reed blog. Rodney's friend, Caitlin Adams, posts about her visits with Rodney.
8. Host a screening of the documentary State vs. Reed, which is an incredible resource for showing the facts of the case. You can find it online here.