The execution of convict Rodney Reed, whose sentence was put under scrutiny by new evidence, which supporters say raises some serious questions about his apparent guilt, was recently halted by the Texas top appeals court. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stay of execution was issued within hours of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommendation of delay in the lethal injection execution.
The Parole Board recommended unanimously a 120-day delay for Reed but rejected his plea to turn his sentence into a life sentence in prison. Reed, 51, was due for execution on 20th November’s evening, for the 1996 killing of 19-year-old Stacey Stites. The Board’s decision led them to approach Governor Greg Abbott, who has yet to decide whether he would reject it, accept or choose to do nothing about it. The halt likely makes Governor Abbott’s last word moot until Rodney’s appeals are exhausted. Bryce Benjet, an Innocence Project attorney, which represents Reed, said that the reprieve would indeed be critical for evaluating powerful new evidence of his innocence and possibly allow DNA tests that proved who committed the crime.
Reed’s efforts to stay his execution received support from celebrities like Oprah, Beyoncé, Rihanna and Kim Kardashian. Lawmakers from both parties, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz, recommended that officials re-evaluate available evidence in the case. As Texas has resumed executions since 1982, only 3 death row inmates had their condemnations turned into to life in prison within mere days of their scheduled executions. Since 1982, the Parole Board, recommended commuting any death row inmate’s ruling only five times previously. But former Texas Governor Rick Perry twice rejected the recommendation in 2004 and 2009. Since 2015 when he took office, Governor Greg Abbott halted one more imminent execution in 2018. Reed still has several appeals pending, including one with the U.S. Supreme Court. His enthusiastic supporters have staged various rallies, including an all-night vigil in Washington in front of the Supreme Court. A rally in front of the Texas governor’s mansion is scheduled for Sunday. Prosecutors allege that Reed violated and strangled Ms. Stacey Stites when she way going to the supermarket to start her shift in the rural community of Bastrop, about 30 miles southeast of Austin.
Reed has long stated that he did not murder Ms. Stites and it was her fiancé, Jimmy Fennell, a former police officer, who was the real murderer. Reed alleges Fennell was irritated as Ms. Stites, a Caucasian, had an affair with Reed, who is black. Fennell’s attorney has said his client did not kill Ms. Stites. Fennell was paroled last year after being jailed for indecent assault.
Prosecutors stated that Reed’s semen was found inside the victim and his claims of an affair with Ms. Stites weren’t proved at the trial. Prosecutors also say Fennell was cleared as a suspect and that Reed had a history of committing several indecent assaults. Reed’s lawyers retort that his conviction was based upon flawed evidence and denied all other indecent-assault accusations levied by prosecutors. Recently, Reed’s lawyers presented affidavits supporting his claim of innocence, including an incident described by a former prisoner who confirmed that Fennell had bragged about murdering Ms. Stites and referred to Rodney with a racial slur. Reed’s attorneys say that other recent affidavits support the relationship between Reed and Ms. Stites and show that Fennell was aggressive and violent towards Ms. Stites.