Texas appeals court blocks Rodney Reed execution

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals blocked the execution of Rodney Reed, who was sentenced to death more than 20 years ago for the 1996 assault, rape and strangling of 19-year-old Stacey Stites. His supporters are now hoping he is exonerated. CNN's Ed Lavandera reports.

Posted: Nov 18, 2019 10:00 PM
Updated: Nov 18, 2019 10:00 PM

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals blocked the execution of Rodney Reed Friday, allowing a lower court to consider Reed's claim that the state presented false testimony and that he is innocent.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended earlier Friday that Gov. Greg Abbott grant a 120-day reprieve to Reed.

"This time is critical to allow for proper consideration of the powerful new evidence of his innocence and possible DNA testing that could help prove who actually committed the crime," said Bryce Benjet, Reed's Innocence Project attorney. "We hope that Governor Abbott will consider all of the facts in this case, and adopt the Board's recommendation as soon as possible."

The stay of Reed's execution means the case will go back to a state judge in Bastrop County where he was convicted.

Reed was sentenced to death more than 20 years ago for the 1996 assault, rape and strangling of 19-year-old Stacey Stites. He was scheduled to be executed November 20.

The inmate and attorneys with the Innocence Project say they have evidence that exonerates him and allegedly implicates Stites' fiancée at the time, Jimmy Fennell, who was a police officer. Reed's team will be able to present topics to a judge that include evidence of "actual innocence," according to one of Reed's lawyers, Andrew MacRae.

Innocence Project lawyers say they have new medical testimony that puts Stites' original time of death into question as well as new witness statements.

In spring 2020, there will be a week-long hearing where defense and prosecuting attorneys will focus on these new issues, MacRae said. Once the case heads back to an appeals court, judges will determine if Reed gets a new trial.

The case has united lawmakers, religious leaders, celebrities such as Kim Kardashian West and Rihanna, and more than 2.9 million people who have signed a petition on freerodneyreed.com asking Abbott to halt the execution.

Reed submitted an application to the board requesting the 120-day reprieve or a commutation of his sentence to a lesser penalty. The board chose to ask for a reprieve, according to a release from the board.

"So grateful for the commitment and passion of everyone who voiced their support, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles for their recommendation to issue a 120 day reprieve, and the courts for issuing a stay!" Kardashian West tweeted Friday after the stay was ordered.

Kardashian West visited Reed Friday in the prison where he is being held, according to MacRae.

Growing support for Reed

Rep. Michael T. McCaul wrote Abbott and the board this week to ask for a delay of the execution. Texas executes the most death row inmates of the 50 US states.

Read Rep. McCaul's letter

McCaul, a Texas Republican, is among a growing list of supporters across the country who say the new evidence might prove Reed did not kill Stites in Bastrop, Texas.

New witness affidavits from neighbors, colleagues, and associates of Stites and Fennell paint their relationship as abusive and difficult. There is more testimony supporting the assertion that Stites was in an affair with Reed.

One witness said that at Stites' funeral, Fennell said something like, "You got what you deserved," while looking at her body.

The new testimony aims to refute the prosecution's portrayal of Fennell and Stites as a happy couple eagerly anticipating their upcoming wedding and further cast Fennell as a potential suspect in his fiancée's murder.

Fennell was never charged in her death. His attorney, Robert Phillips, said his client denies any involvement in Stites' death, and he said the stories were lacking in credibility.

"There's no evidence that's worthy of presenting even to a grand jury that Jimmy Fennell was somehow involved," Phillips said.

The lead prosecutor for Reed's case maintains he is guilty and has said that DNA evidence from Stites' body proves it.

But Reed's attorneys say his DNA was on Stites' body because they were in a consensual sexual relationship.

The Innocence Project noted that Reed, who is black, was convicted by an all-white jury.

The group says the murder weapon was never tested for DNA evidence and that forensic experts admitted to errors in their testimony, and that a former prison inmate claims the victim's fiancée confessed to the murder that sent Reed to prison.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 308111

Reported Deaths: 7122
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20826248
Hinds19910411
Harrison17510302
Rankin13334276
Jackson13118243
Madison9908210
Lee9871170
Jones8297160
Forrest7525147
Lauderdale7198237
Lowndes6272144
Lamar611084
Lafayette6039117
Washington5281133
Bolivar4772129
Oktibbeha455897
Panola4445103
Pearl River4428141
Warren4284118
Marshall4276100
Pontotoc416972
Monroe4061132
Union403975
Neshoba3994176
Lincoln3871109
Hancock372885
Leflore3468124
Sunflower329589
Tate322782
Pike3188104
Scott310872
Yazoo304468
Alcorn298065
Itawamba297177
Copiah293265
Coahoma289778
Simpson288284
Tippah284868
Prentiss275759
Marion266079
Leake261373
Wayne261341
Grenada255384
Covington254780
Adams246082
Newton245161
George238147
Winston225981
Tishomingo222267
Jasper219748
Attala213473
Chickasaw205057
Holmes186872
Clay182854
Stone179331
Clarke177076
Tallahatchie175540
Calhoun163531
Yalobusha159236
Smith158834
Walthall130643
Greene129433
Lawrence126423
Noxubee126233
Montgomery125542
Perry125138
Carroll120926
Amite120141
Webster113532
Jefferson Davis105432
Tunica102725
Claiborne101330
Benton97325
Kemper95428
Humphreys94332
Franklin82123
Quitman78916
Choctaw73417
Wilkinson64928
Jefferson64828
Sharkey49617
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 520503

Reported Deaths: 10722
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson754091487
Mobile38938798
Madison33898495
Tuscaloosa25297443
Montgomery23992567
Shelby23124239
Baldwin20652300
Lee15541165
Calhoun14301311
Morgan14145270
Etowah13665346
Marshall11967219
Houston10381278
Elmore10001200
Limestone9822147
Cullman9481188
St. Clair9435234
Lauderdale9223227
DeKalb8748181
Talladega8071171
Walker7100275
Jackson6762110
Autauga6734103
Blount6497135
Colbert6210130
Coffee5404112
Dale4766110
Russell429038
Franklin419982
Chilton4087109
Covington4056114
Tallapoosa3898146
Escambia388574
Dallas3531149
Chambers3503122
Clarke346560
Marion3066100
Pike305876
Lawrence295395
Winston272572
Bibb256459
Marengo248661
Geneva245875
Pickens233059
Barbour225255
Hale218775
Butler212566
Fayette209260
Henry187744
Cherokee182144
Randolph176941
Monroe172040
Washington164238
Macon154848
Clay149555
Crenshaw149257
Cleburne146241
Lamar139334
Lowndes136553
Wilcox124327
Bullock121340
Conecuh109128
Perry107926
Sumter102932
Coosa99328
Greene91034
Choctaw58724
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