AUSTIN (KXAN) — The State of Texas will execute Rodney Reed on November 20. This week, multiple events are scheduled to draw attention to Reed, who’s convicted of killing Stacey Stites in 1996.
On Monday Oct. 28, Texas state representative Vikki Goodwin, D-Austin, joined law enforcement officers to file a brief with the United States Supreme Court, asking to stop the execution. Many believe Reed did not kill Stites.
“I don’t think anyone can say [Reed)] is guilty without a shadow of a doubt, and I don’t believe we should carry out the death penalty when there’s doubt about the truth of the case,” Goodwin wrote KXAN in a release.
Reed — and the Innocence Project, which recently filed a U.S. Supreme Court petition to stall the execution — say more DNA testing will prove he did not kill 19-year-old Stacey Stites in 1996. Stites, a bride-to-be who worked at H-E-B, was found dumped on the side of a rural road north of Bastrop after a search that began when she didn’t show up for work that morning.
While Reed was not looked into initially, he became a suspect when investigators ran his DNA as part of a separate alleged sexual assault case that was later dropped, the Reed defense says.
BACKGROUND: Murder in the Lost Pines: The Rodney Reed Case
Authorities said Reed’s DNA matched evidence found in the Stites case, and he was arrested and charged with capital murder in 1997.
Reed claims he had a secret and consensual relationship with Stites, which explains the DNA match. Reed’s legal team has continuously pointed the finger at Stites’ then-fiance, former police officer Jimmy Fennell, as the killer. Investigators considered Fennell a suspect, prior to Reed’s DNA match.
Fennell was later accused of raping a woman in his custody while he was a Georgetown Police Office in 2007. He pleaded guilty to lesser charges, served 10 years in prison and was released in 2018.
Law enforcement officers are adding their names to the growing list of people- who want to delay Rodney Reed’s execution next month. The group represented by Reed’s lawyers filed a brief with the US Supreme Court Monday.
Rep. Vikki Goodwin, D-Austin, said “As I learned more about this case, I”m more convinced that he did not receive a fair trial, that there was racial bias against Rodney Reed, and Rodney Reed did not kill Stacey Stites.
Reed has long maintained that while he had a sexual relationship with Stites and he did not kill her.
Deke Pierce is a retired Travis County Sheriff’s Deputy and helped organize Monday’s brief to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Folks that do not have anything to do with the case, think that it needs a second look by the Supreme Court,” said Pierce.
He hopes to get a critical mass as many people as possible to ask the court, the local district attorney, and Governor Abbott to keep Rodney Reed alive. Pierce points to people like Anthony Graves and Michael Morton as convincing examples of the state getting it wrong.
“This is a man’s life we’re talking about here,” said Pierce.
Tuesday, pastor at Life ANew, Sherwynn Patton, will organize a similar event.
Sherwynn Patton, Life ANew, told KXAN: “To communicate that heart of compassion. That’s at the very heart of God. That’s what Jesus would have us do.”
This event will be Tuesday at Greater Mount Zion church with dozens of pastors.
“That does get the Governor’s attention. It’s not just one cohort that is asking him to stop the execution and I believe the faith community was that missing component,” said Patton.
Reed’s family has been fighting for a new trial for years, and he has tried to appeal the case at least eight times over two decades. He filed a lawsuit in federal district court last month against the state for repeatedly denying requests for DNA testing.
Kim Kardashian West waded into the Rodney Reed case, urging Gov. Greg Abbott to halt the death row inmate’s planned execution on Saturday.
The reality TV star tweeted her support for Reed. Kardashian West, who has 62 million followers on Twitter, said she has been “investigating” Reed’s case and tagged Abbott, telling him to “do the right thing.”
KXAN has reached out to Governor Abbott’s office for a comment and has not yet heard back.