Rodney Reed files new appeal, says scientific opinions were false

Crime
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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Death row inmate Rodney Reed has filed a new appeal in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals asserting scientific expert opinions the state used at his Bastrop trial were false and have since been changed. 

The new appeal, which supplements a pending habeas corpus proceeding, comes one day after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Reed’s petition for further DNA testing of crime scene evidence.

Reed sits on death row. He has maintained his innocence since being convicted of the 1996 murder and sexual assault of 21-year-old Stacey Stites. Stites was found strangled and partially clothed alongside a rural Bastrop road. Reed’s defense says her former fiancé, Jimmy Fennell, is the killer. 

Since his conviction, Reed’s defense has used outside forensic experts to show the state used faulty evidence at trial. The defense says it has undermined the state’s time-of-death estimate and evidence of a sexual assault, among other issues, according to the appeal.

“The Texas Department of Public Safety (who employed the State’s expert Karen Blakely), The Bode Cellmark Forensics Laboratory (who employed the State’s retained expert Meghan Clement), and the State’s forensic pathologist Dr. Roberto Bayardo, have all now acknowledged that the scientific opinions offered by the state to tie Mr. Reed to the murder were in error,” according to the latest appeal. “Because these erroneous expert testimonies were central to the state’s case against Mr. Reed, he is entitled to relief.”

The state has maintained its position that Reed is guilty and it has worked to block every attempt by the defense to obtain a new trial.

Reed’s attorney, Bryce Benjet, said the ultimate outcome of the appeal could be a new trial. In the short term, the Court of Criminal Appeals could remand the case back to Bastrop District Court for further proceedings. It is not clear when the Court of Criminal Appeals will make a decision. The last remand took about two years, Benjet wrote in an email.

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