AUSTIN (KXAN) — New court filings in the Rodney Reed case highlight 11 new witnesses, three of whom have not been heard from before. Reed’s defense team will argue these new witness statements are enough to halt his execution scheduled for Nov. 20.
Reed was sentenced to death row after he was found guilty of the rape and murder of Stacey Stites. Stites’ body was found dumped on the side of a Bastrop road after she didn’t show up for work one April 1996 morning. The Innocence Project now works on Reed’s behalf. They are trying to argue that Stites’ fiance Jimmy Fennell murdered her.
Reed’s semen is the only evidence that links him to Stites’ murder although there was no evidence of rape. Reed, who is black, said he was having a secret affair with Stites, who was white and also engaged.
The defense introduced new witness statements in its Writ of Habeas Corpus — an appeal to save Reed’s life. One of those witnesses, a co-worker of Stites’ at HEB, said Stites had previously told her she was engaged but afraid of her fiancé. She also said Stites confided in her that she was having an affair with a black man.
A witness statement from former Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Richard Derleth also said that he learned “Stites would hide from Fennell when Fennell would come into the HEB in order to avoid him starting a fight.”
Another witness said his father lived in the apartment directly under Stites and Fennell and once while visiting he heard a loud argument and fighting from their apartment. The witness said his father told him Stites and Fennell would regularly fight and that he suspected physical abuse was a part of it. After the murder, the witness said his father told him he let police know about the fighting but was told Fennell was not involved in the murder.
Reed’s defense team also filed an opposition to motion for leave this week. Bastrop District Attorney Bryan Goertz’s recently requested to prohibit a district court judge from considering two motions filed by Reed’s defense. In response, Reed’s lawyers filed an opposition to Goertz’s Writ of Prohibition.
The two motions, which ask to withdraw and invalidate the execution order against Reed, will be discussed in a Bastrop County Courtroom on Wednesday. Reed’s defense team argues the execution order should be void, claiming the Harris County District Judge who signed the execution order in July had no judicial authority over the case.