State files a motion to set Rodney Reed’s execution for November

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BASTROP COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The state has filed a motion to schedule an execution date for death-row inmate Rodney Reed, calling for him to be put to death on Nov. 20, 2019.

Reed’s attorney, Bryce Benjet, then filed a motion of his own Monday afternoon opposing the state and asking a Bastrop District Court judge to dismiss or strike the state’s request to schedule the execution. Benjet argues the state has retaliated against Reed and his family for exercising their First Amendment rights. He also argues that the state falsely implied the execution date would not interfere with litigation in the case.

“The timing of the filing alone presents strong circumstantial evidence that the motion was filed in response to Mr. Reed and his family’s exercise of First Amendment rights, and not in a legitimate effort to enforce the judgment in this case,” Benjet wrote in the motion.

Reed’s family protested in Washington D.C. last Thursday. An article on that protest in The Bastrop Advertiser noted Reed intended to pursue federal review of the state’s decisions in the case.

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Rodney Reed’s family outside the U.S. Supreme Court July 2, 2019 (Courtesy Reed Justice Initiative)

His family members were joined by anti-death penalty activists to protest on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied his most recent appeal. Reed’s family believes he was wrongfully convicted and intended to plead with the Supreme Court to overturn his conviction. 

“Being black and considered poor, they didn’t anticipate on us being in Washington,” said Sandra Reed, Rodney’s mother.

The state’s motion asks the court to deny Reed a hearing. If the court does allow Reed a hearing, the state asks that it happen as soon as possible because the order would need to be entered by Aug. 21, 2019, in order to set Reed’s execution on Nov. 20.

Reed’s legal team has fought for years to overturn Reed’s conviction and get him a new trial. He was scheduled to be put to death in March 2015, but the execution was paused just days beforehand. He was first sentenced to death in May of 1998.

“This trial has been a Jim Crow trial from the beginning, from the very beginning and we are outraged by that,” said Roderick Reed, Rodney’s brother.

An image of Stacey Stites, who was killed in 1996. (KXAN Photo)

Reed was convicted of killing Stacey Stites and dumping her body on a rural Bastrop County road in 1996. DNA from the Stites case matched Reed, but Reed said he had a consensual and secretive relationship with her.  

Stites was set to marry Jimmy Fennell, a Georgetown police officer, at the time of her murder. Fennell was later sentenced to 10 years in prison for an unrelated crime. He was accused of raping a woman in his custody but pleaded guilty to lesser charges. Reed’s attorney believes new evidence shows Fennell was the actual killer.

An image of Jimmy Fennell at the time of his release. (KXAN Photo).

Reed’s case has garnered national attention as his defense team — led by Benjet — has uncovered new evidence, found new witnesses and cast doubt on the state’s case and critical forensic evidence used at trial.

Reed had applied for relief from his 1997 murder conviction on the grounds that scientific expert opinions used at trial were false and have since changed. But on June 26, the Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed that application for relief. The appeals court also denied Reed relief he sought in 2017 that included new testimony and evidence the defense presented.

Reed has unsuccessfully pushed to get pieces of evidence tested for DNA, including the belt used to strangle Stites. 

“Our family has done nothing but asked for a fair trial from the beginning, to present all the evidence from the beginning,” Roderick Reed said.

An image of Rodney Reed at a court hearing. (KXAN Photo).

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