AUSTIN, TX— As the assigned execution date swiftly approaches, family and supporters of Rodney Reed come out to the streets to ask for justice in a case that was closed nearly 20 years ago.
Rodney Reed’s execution date, after several delays, was set for next month. Exactly on November 20th, Rodney Reed will receive the lethal injection. Meanwhile, he has been fighting for the past 18 years to get his sentence revoked.
Since yesterday marked “Wrongful Conviction Day”, Reed’s supporters rallied to try and stop it from happening. Currently, Reed is working with the Innocence Project to get more DNA testing done. However, his petition has been ignored or denied multiples times before.
Meanwhile, Reed’s attorneys have also filed for a U.S. Supreme Court plea to hold up the execution. They argue that previous appropriate counsel was lacking during his original trials. They assure that his defense was flimsy and that racism during the trial was palpable, as well.
Backstory of Rodney Reed
The crime Rodney Reed was convicted for took place in 1996 in a rural area in the north of Bastrop. The victim was the, then 19-year-old, bride-to-be Stacy Stiles. A search for her started the same day her body was found in a rural route. She had been raped and strangled to death with a belt.
The first suspect was Stacy’s then-fiancé, Jimmy Fennell, who worked as a police officer in the town. Evidence tied his truck to the crime scene, but after lacking a motive and a clear and viable timeline, authorities decided to look in another direction.
Fennell was never charged. Although he was later accused of raping a woman he had in his custody, in 2007. After pleading guilty, the then Georgetown Police Officer served 10 years in prison. He was released last year.
The DNA evidence that linked Reed to the crime come by chance a year later after another woman accused him of rape. A DNA sample was analyzed and matched with rests of semen found in Stacy’s body.
Several other rape allegations in the area had been filed against Reed, but he was never convicted for any of them. Most of the woman that accused him later retired the allegations. Nonetheless, the prosecution used these cases as proof of Reed’s supposed predatory character.
Reed declared that he was having a secret consensual affair with Stacy at the time of the murder. Hence, that would explain the presence of his semen and DNA in her body. But, his defense team at the moment, was unable to find someone willing to testify.
Reed’s attorneys did find people who confirmed the relationship, but no one agreed to go to court in his favor. At that moment, a sexual encounter between a white woman and a black man was still seriously frowned upon in the smaller towns of Texas.
Even Stacy’s family members also doubt Reed’s guilt. And while they are not sure about Fennell’s guilt, they ask for Reed’s freedom.
However, her mother declared that Stacy was very happy about her upcoming wedding and very in love with Fennell. She was apparently working long shifts at H-E-B to be able to afford her wedding gown. Stacy was later buried in that wedding dress.
On Tuesday, Reed’s family was joined by students from the University of Texas specialized in International Amnesty. Their plan is to write letters to both the Governor and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.
They are in a race against time to win their plea if they want to save Reed from execution. After being in this fight for the last 18 years, Reed’s family is asking for a new trial where the new evidence can be revised.
His attorneys are appealing to the Supreme Court to overturn a local court’s decision not to grant him a new hearing. Even though new evidence has come to light during the last two decades, Reed hasn’t gotten another chance.
Reed’s defense team said that the many holes in the case and trial should not be ignored. Back in 1996, police officers did not search Stacy’s apartment – the last place she was seen alive – nor considered Fennell’s truck viable as proof for the trial.
Some other court documents show that a beer can was also found near the body but was never investigated. However, initial DNA testing linked the can to two local law enforcement officers.
Both of them were Fennell’s close friends and one of them committed suicide shortly after the murder investigation began.
At the same time, the defense oversaw the evidence that Fennell was a jealous man and had a long history of violence and racism. Even his former girlfriend accused him of both things as proven by court documents.
Besides, Fennell failed to properly pass a polygraph test during the investigation but said the evidence was considered inadmissible during the trial.
Now, if Reed’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court gets denied, he will be out of options and out of time. Meanwhile, he can only wait for his execution day in his maximum-security cell.