BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) — A witness list obtained by KXAN for an upcoming July hearing in the death-row case of Rodney Reed shows 18 people, including the murder victim’s former fiancé Jimmy Fennell, the defense plans to call to testify. There are another 23 witnesses who may be called.
The witness list shows many individuals who were never mentioned or associated with Reed’s original Bastrop trial in 1998. Included among the names is Arthur Snow, a former state prison inmate who served time with Fennell in 2010 and said Fennell confessed to killing his fiancée, according to a sworn affidavit.
The upcoming Bastrop hearing presents perhaps one of the best opportunities for Reed, now 53, to get a new trial. Reed was convicted of murdering 19-year-old Stacey Stites in Bastrop in 1996. He has remained on death row for more than two decades and has maintained his innocence all along.
Reed has been represented for years by the Innocence Project, and his defense team has uncovered numerous new witnesses and evidence they say cast doubt on the state’s original case. Reed has asserted Fennell is the actual killer.
Fennell has never responded to a request for comment, and he has steadfastly denied he killed Stites. Fennell separately served 10 years in prison. He was originally charged with raping a woman in his custody while he was a Georgetown police officer but pleaded guilty to lesser crimes.
Reed was previously granted a hearing in Bastrop in October 2017. Fennell’s personal attorney, Robert Phillips, attended and told the court if his client was called to testify, he would invoke the 5th Amendment and not answer questions. Phillips said Fennell would not be able to offer any testimony that would be different than his original statements at Reed’s trial. Reed’s team accepted Fennell wouldn’t answer any questions, and Fennell did not ultimately take the stand.
In November 2019 the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed Reed’s execution date and remanded the case back to a Bastrop trial court for “further factual development,” according to a scheduling order. Reed’s execution date has not been reset. The Bastrop hearing will be based on three grounds: Reed’s actual innocence, a Brady claim and that the state presented false evidence. A Brady claim asserts the prosecution did not turn over all exculpatory evidence that could have exonerated or been favorable to the defendant.
The scheduling order lays out a timeline leading up to the hearing currently scheduled for July 19 through July 30.
The deadline to serve any written discovery was May 19. By June 11, both sides were asked to show their list of expert witnesses expected to testify. And by June 18, the prosecution and defense were told to provide a list of witnesses. Any additional witnesses not included on the list submitted Friday would have to be agreed to by both sides, according to the scheduling order.