BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) — State attorney Matt Ottoway questioned death-row inmate Rodney Reed’s 1998 defense attorney, Lydia Clay-Jackson, Thursday in the third day of a hearing. He tried to get her to admit that details and evidence contradicted itself in the original trial, nearly 20 years ago, and that new revelations aren’t as important as the defense insists they are.
A hearing on the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites continues in Bastrop. In 1998, Reed was convicted for her rape and murder. However, over the years, Reed’s defense insists that new information has revealed that instead of Reed it was Stites’ fiance at the time, Jimmy Fennell, who committed the murder.
During the hearing the day before, Lydia Clay-Jackson told the court she did not have enough time to interview all 275 people the state said they could bring in during the 1998 trial. In short, there was too much work to do in eight weeks before the case went to trial and the scales of justice were tilted against Reed’s team.
Ottoway cross-examined her and tried to get her to admit that the loss was her responsibility, that she didn’t ask the right questions at the time and that over the past 20 years her stories have changed as well as other suspects and people involved.
“You don’t know when you walk in who’s what. All you know is you’re given cold documents like this and you’re said here read through them and make your case,” said Calvin Garvie, another attorney on Reed’s original case. “Go with that. And you may be given tapes or something like that, but all of those things take time.”
The state pointed out that while the defense team wasn’t aware of certain inconsistent statements, the attorneys were aware of others. They place the blame on Reed’s lawyers for not following information they were given and insist this was a fair trial and they have the right man behind bars.
The hearing was called after Fennell’s best friend at the time, Curtis Davis, gave an alternate alibi for Fennell in a CNN interview. In 1998, Fennell said he went to a little league baseball event, then went directly home. Davis told CNN that Fennell told him he went out drinking after the game.
That opened the door Wednesday for Reed’s defense to bring in a well-known forensic pathologist who reviewed the evidence and found major problems with the state’s story in 1998.
The original story was Stites woke up early April 23, 1996 and drove Fennell’s truck to work, then Reed abducted, raped and killed her. However, Dr. Michael Baden Wednesday claimed there was no evidence of sexual assault (instead it was a mistake by the original medical examiner) and Stites was already dead around midnight. Dr. Baden claimed that there was evidence that she was lying face down on the ground for four hours before being moved to Fennell’s truck where her DNA was found in 1996. Her body was found on a country road in Bastrop County.
The hearing lasts until Friday. Stites’ mother is expected to testify Friday.
“Y’all been at this for 20 years, I’m not going to hurry it up now,” Judge Shaver told the lawyers while they scrambled for paperwork during a brief pause in the hearing.
Judge Shaver will make a recommendation after Friday to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. They will then decide if Reed will get a new trial.