source: Texas Tribune
published: 1 November 2021
More than two decades after Rodney Reed was sentenced to death for the murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites, doubts about his guilt and the role race might have played in his 1998 conviction continue to haunt this Central Texas town.
On Monday, a judge appointed to reexamine the case slammed the door on Reed’s best chance to avoid execution, releasing his findings that newly presented evidence is not enough to grant Reed a new trial.
The ruling by retired state District Judge J.D. Langley is a dramatic setback for efforts to win Reed’s freedom in a case that has spawned international attention and outrage, often cited by Reed’s supporters as an example of a Black man railroaded by an American criminal justice system.
Langley’s recommendation, issued two weeks after he heard attorneys’ final arguments at the Bastrop County courthouse, now goes to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which has the final say in the matter.
It is an explosive turn after nearly a quarter-century of court battles over the 1996 Bastrop County killing. Reed, now 53, and his supporters have long proclaimed his innocence, pointing blame at Stites’ fiance, Jimmy Fennell. Stites’ family and state attorneys remain convinced of Reed’s guilt.
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