BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) — Lawyers for Texas death row inmate Rodney Reed have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the State of Texas Thursday. According to Reed’s attorneys, the suit is due to repeated denied requests for DNA testing.
Rodney Reed was convicted of murdering 19-year-old Stacy Stites in 1996, but his family thinks he was wrongfully convicted. They have been fighting for years to get Reed a new trial.
DNA from the Stites case matched Reed, but he said he had a secret and consensual relationship with her. Reed’s attorney believes new evidence will show Stites; fiance at the time, Jimmy Fennell, killed her. Fennell, then a Georgetown Police Officer, was later sentenced to 10 years in prison for an unrelated crime.
Reed’s lawyers say a DNA of the murder weapon will prove his innocence. They say a denial to perform such a test violates Reed’s constitutional rights.
The lawsuit comes just a week after a Bastrop District court set Reed’s execution date to Nov. 20, 2019.
“If this case were investigated today, the murder weapon would unquestionably have been tested and could provide evidence of Mr. Reed’s innocence. Instead, his fundamental right to due process has been violated and an execution date has been set,” said Bryce Benjet, Reed’s lawyer and senior staff attorney at the Innocence Project. “It simply makes no sense that the state would attempt to execute a person without conducting this basic forensic investigation.”
The request for DNA testing was filed nearly five years ago and was denied. In the most recent Texas legislative session, a fix to the post-conviction DNA law passed the house of representatives, only to fail in the Senate. In addition, this year the United States Supreme Court declined to review the denial for DNA testing by Texas courts in Reed’s case.
In 2015, KXAN Investigates created a detailed, interactive background on the Rodney Reed Case. With his execution date looming, take a look at how the investigation lead to conviction.