BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) — Attorneys for death row inmate Rodney Reed filed a motion Friday requesting a withdrawal of Reed’s Nov. 20 execution date. The motion cites new evidence that was allegedly revealed in recent weeks.
According to The Innocence Project, two new witnesses have come forward with information they say supports the idea that Reed is innocent of the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites in Bastrop. They say the new witnesses provide evidence connecting Stites’ former fiancé Jimmy Fennel to her murder.
The first witness is a life insurance salesperson who claimed Fennell threatened to kill Stites while she was applying for life insurance.
The salesperson said his company would frequently rent out lodge halls for events and would hire outside security. He said Fennel was often part of the hired security teams. The man said he met Stites on several occasions when Fennell would work security. The witness claims while filling out a life insurance application Stites made a joke about not needing life insurance because she was so young, to which Fennell replied, “If I ever catch you messing around on me I will kill you and no one will ever know it was me who killed you.”
The witness said he attempted to contact Reed’s lawyers in the early 2000s about his experience with Fennell, but was not able to get in contact with the right people. He claimed he did not come forward earlier because he thought Reed was going to be exonerated.
In 2015 after seeing continuing media coverage about Reed’s execution date the witness said he sent letters to both Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas AG Ken Paxton about his interaction with Fennell. He said he also wrote a similar letter to Judge Doug Shaver, who presided over Reed’s case.
The second witness is a Lee County sheriff’s deputy who said Fennell made an alarming statement at Stites’ funeral. The deputy claims during the service for Stites after her murder he was in the viewing room with Fennell. He said he distinctly remembers Fennell looking at Stites’ body in her casket and saying “you got what you deserved.”
The deputy claims in the affidavit he would frequently think about what he heard Fennell say, and said he would not be able to live with himself if he did not come forward.
The Innocence Project claims the new evidence shows a violation of Due Process under the 1963 Supreme Court Case Brady v. Maryland, since it could not have been discovered or presented in Reed’s previous pleadings.
Reed’s legal team has reached out to the Bastrop County District Court to withdraw Reed’s Nov. 20 execution date so the new evidence can fully be investigated.