Convicted on ‘flimsy’ Evidence
Compiled from Campaign to end the Death Penalty
posted: 24th August 2008
News updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item
Rodney Reed has been on Texas death row since 1998 for a crime that he insists he didn’t commit. Lawyers for Rodney Reed have argued before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that he didn’t get a fair trial when he was convicted in 1998 for the murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites.
So many things wrong with the Texas death penalty system are present in this case. Rodney is Black, and the murder victim he was convicted of killing is white. He had poor legal representation at his trial. And he was tried by an all-white jury.
But Rodney has had strong support from his family, including his mother Sandra. The Campaign chapter in Austin has helped to organise a defence. Along with family members, they have held numerous large public demonstrations to bring attention to Rodney’s case.
Stacy Stites’ fiancé, Jimmy Fennell, was a police officer in nearby Giddings. Fennell had a record of brutality in the Giddings Police Department, including one incident in which he pulled his service revolver on an unarmed Hispanic man during a routine traffic stop.
According to the lead investigator in the Reed case, Fennell became the chief suspect immediately. During his questioning, he twice failed polygraph tests on the question of whether he had strangled Stites. The apartment that Fennell and Stites shared was never searched, although it was the last place Stites was known to be alive.
Rodney Reed was convicted on a single piece of evidence, DNA from semen found in Stites’ body. More than 10 witnesses came forward and signed affidavits to testify that Reed and Stites had been having an affair. The defence called only two of these witnesses.
Reed’s attorneys also failed to call a witness who could have given Reed a credible alibi for the morning of the murder.
The prosecution suppressed information about several witnesses who claimed to have seen Stites’ on the morning of the murder with two men, neither of them Reed. The prosecution failed to release an unedited videotape of the crime scene and autopsy tapes to the defence, which would have showed how police mishandled important evidence.
The prosecution also failed to reveal DNA test results from the two beer cans found at the crime scene, which tested positive for two police officers — evidence that could have further implicated Fennell.
“We know he is innocent, and most of the citizens of Bastrop know he is innocent,” Rodney’s mother Sandra said. When people ask us how we stay so strong, we say that we know the truth — the truth keeps us going and fighting for justice.”
New Spotlight on Rodney Reed Case
11 December 2007
Rodney Reed’s long struggle for justice
8 September 2007