We demand a new trial for Rodney Reed

Innocent on Texas death row

By: Conor Reed

New developments in the struggle to free Rodney Reed, an innocent man on Texas’ Death Row, could lead to a new trail for Reed. Recently, Federal Judge Lee Yeakel sent Reed’s case back to the district court. Judge Yeakel found that important police reports were hidden from the defense during the original trial. These reports include statements by witnesses who saw the victim, a 19-year old woman named Stacey Stites, in the company of other men--not Rodney Reed--on the night of her murder. Hopefully, the new hearing will shed light on the holes in the state’s case against Rodney.

In collaboration with the Austin Campaign chapter, Reed’s family has fought tirelessly to educate the public about Rodney’s case over the last few years. Recently, about thirty people attended a demonstration in front of the Criminal Court of Appeals demanding a new trial for Rodney.

Rodney was convicted and sentenced to death because he is a Black man who was having an affair with the victim, a white woman who was engaged to a local police officer named Jimmy Fennel. Rodney’s semen was found in Stites’ body during the autopsy, but Rodney has never denied a sexual relationship with Stites. Rodney’s incompetent defense attorneys failed to call his alibi witness to the stand during the original trial.

Police misconduct in Rodney’s case is overwhelming. Stites’ body was missing for over two hours while in transport to the Austin Medical Examiner who found more lacerations on her body than in the photographs that were taken at the crime scene. On top of that, two beer cans were found by Stites’ body with DNA that did not match Rodney’s but implicated two local police officers. One of these officers recently committed suicide.

Even more disturbing is that investigators not only failed to search Stites’ apartment, but they also failed to search Fennel’s apartment, the last place Stites was seen alive. Moreover, police released Stites’ abandoned truck to Fennel who, in turn, immediately sold the truck. And finally, Fennel, who was initially the prime suspect, twice failed a polygraph when asked "Did you strangle Stacey Stites?"

Despite all this, Fennel remains free while Reed awaits death. Here in Texas, we remain committed to doing what we can to expose the injustices in Rodney’s case.