Rodney Reed Should Not Be Retried in Texas Murder Case, Judge Says

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U.S.|Rodney Reed Should Not Be Retried successful Texas Murder Case, Judge Says

The justice said that caller evidence, including witnesser testimony, was not capable to warrant a caller proceedings for Mr. Reed, who was sentenced to decease successful the 1996 execution of a 19-year-old woman.

Rodney Reed successful  tribunal  successful  Bastrop County, Texas, successful  2017. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals volition  determine  if helium  volition  get   a caller   trial.
Credit...Ralph Barrera/Austin American-Statesman, via Associated Press

Nov. 1, 2021, 6:22 p.m. ET

A justice successful Texas has recommended that Rodney Reed, a decease enactment captive whose lawsuit has drawn the attraction of celebrities and elected officials, should not person a caller proceedings successful the 1996 execution of a 19-year-old woman.

Judge J.D. Langley, who filed his proposal connected Sunday successful District Court successful Bastrop County, said that Mr. Reed “has not proven by wide and convincing grounds that helium is really innocent.”

Judge Langley’s proposal sends the lawsuit backmost to the state’s highest transgression court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which volition determine if Mr. Reed volition get a caller trial. His lawyers said they were hopeful the tribunal would assistance one, though it was not wide erstwhile that would beryllium decided.

Mr. Reed, 53, who has agelong claimed his innocence, was convicted successful 1998 successful the 1996 execution of Stacey Stites successful Bastrop, Texas. Ms. Stites, 19, was strangled, and her assemblage was dumped alongside a agrarian road. Prosecutors said she had besides been raped, and Mr. Reed was arrested based mostly connected DNA tests.

Mr. Reed has said that helium and Ms. Stites were having an affair, which would explicate wherefore his DNA was recovered from her body. Mr. Reed’s lawyers accidental witnesses person corroborated that the 2 were having an affair.

His lawyers said that caller grounds had surfaced successful caller years, including grounds from witnesses who had travel guardant pointing toward the victim’s fiancé arsenic different suspect.

One of Mr. Reed’s lawyers, Jane Pucher of the Innocence Project, which seeks to exonerate radical who mightiness person been wrongly convicted, said successful an interrogation connected Monday that her squad had presented “numerous witnesses who had perfectly nary motive to prevarication oregon misremember oregon exaggerate thing successful Rodney’s favor.”

“If a caller assemblage heard the overwhelming grounds of Rodney Reed’s innocence, it would person tenable doubts,” Ms. Pucher said successful a statement. “Convicted by an all-white jury, Mr. Reed has spent 23 years connected decease enactment for a transgression helium did not commit.”

The Texas lawyer general’s office, which argued that Mr. Reed should not person a caller trial, did not instrumentality telephone calls and emails seeking remark connected Monday.

The lawsuit has captured the attraction of celebrities similar Rihanna and Kim Kardashian West. Several Democratic and Republican elected officials person asked the authorities to intervene and telephone disconnected the execution.

Mr. Reed, who is 1 of 197 inmates connected Texas’ decease row, has tried and failed respective times to get his condemnation overturned, tribunal records show. His execution has been stayed twice, astir precocious successful November 2019, erstwhile the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals suspended his decease condemnation and ordered the tribunal wherever helium was primitively tried to see the caller grounds successful his case.

Ms. Pucher said witnesses person testified that “Ms. Stites’s fiancé, Jimmy Fennell, was convulsive and controlling and had threatened to wounded her if helium discovered she was unfaithful.” Mr. Fennell, a erstwhile constabulary officer, pleaded blameworthy successful 2008 to kidnapping a woman. The pistillate said helium besides sexually assaulted her, according to the Innocence Project.

Arthur J. Snow Jr., who served clip successful situation with Mr. Fennell, said successful a sworn affidavit successful 2019 that helium heard Mr. Fennell confess that helium killed Ms. Stites due to the fact that she had cheated connected him with a Black man. Mr. Reed is Black.


Credit...Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

Mr. Fennell was released from situation successful 2018. His lawyer, Robert M. Phillips, has said that Mr. Fennell denies sidesplitting Ms. Stites. Mr. Fennell could not beryllium reached for remark connected Monday.

Judge Langley wrote successful his 50-page proposal that helium recovered Mr. Fennell’s grounds that helium and Ms. Stites “were blessed together” to beryllium credible.

The Innocence Project said that Mr. Fennell was not credible erstwhile helium testified that the much than 20 witnesses who had implicated him successful Ms. Stites’s execution were “lying.”

“Mr. Fennell was an aboriginal fishy successful the case, his statements to constabulary were misleading and helium was recovered to beryllium deceptive connected 2 polygraph tests,” the Innocence Project said successful a statement.

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