AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new development in the ongoing case of death-row inmate Rodney Reed: the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas on Wednesday ordered additional findings from a lower trial court related to Reed’s request for DNA testing.
Visiting Bastrop Judge Doug Shaver denied Reed’s request for DNA testing in 2014. The Appeals Court has now asked the Bastrop trial court to reexamine Reed’s right to have key pieces of evidence, such as the murder weapon, tested.
“The DNA testing we have requested has the capacity to identify the assailant by focusing on evidence that was handled in the course of the murder,” defense attorney Bryce Benjet said in statement. “We are simply asking the Court to allow the same DNA testing that is the standard of care for modern forensic DNA investigations and would be required under Texas law in any capital prosecution today.”
In 1998, a Bastrop County court sentenced Reed to death for the killing of 19-year-old Stacey Stites. Since the verdict, Reed’s defense team has presented numerous new pieces of evidence that, they say, show Stites’ fiance, Jimmy Fennell, committed the murder.
In February of 2015, the Appeals Court stayed Reed’s execution less than two weeks before it was set to occur.
Benjet, with the Innocence Project, previously submitted two items to the Appeals court. One, the request for additional DNA testing, is the subject of this latest order. The other item, a habeas application, laid out several new items of evidence, including witness statements attesting to a relationship between Reed and Stites. The habeas application also included a sworn affidavit by former Travis County Medical Examiner Roberto Bayardo in which he recanted critical portions of his autopsy findings that played a role in Reed’s conviction.
The trial court was ordered to send its findings to the Appeals Court within 60 days. You can view the two Appeals Court opinions below.