Rodney Reed, an inmate at a Texas prison, had been set to be executed on Nov. 20 for the murder of Stacy Stites, but on Nov. 15, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals was able to grant him indefinite stay of execution.
In 1996, he was found guilty of the abduction, rape, and murder of Stites, though he has maintained his claim of innocence and pursued appeals from death row for more than 20 years.
Reed’s lawyer, Bryce Benjet, who has been working on Reed’s case for 18 years, states that there is evidence that clears Reed. Some include the fact that the murder weapon was never DNA tested, some testimonies were found to be inconsistent but overlooked, hair on the victim’s body that did not match Reed’s, and the liklihood of another suspect, of which there is a more clear motive and background as the murderer.
Reed stated that he was in an intimate relationship with Stites, and police claimed they found his DNA on Stites’ body. They compared it to another crime Reed was a suspect in, the kidnapping, beating, and attempted rape and murder of another woman, and investigated Reed to find out his connection to Stites.
Reed has claimed that he and Stites had a consensual sexual relationship, and were together the day before she went missing. Stites, at the time, was engaged to a man named Jimmy Fennell.
In 2007, Jimmy Fennell was accused of the rape of a woman he deatained while working as a police officer in Georgetown, Texas. He was convicted on a guilty plea of kidnapping and improper sexual activity with the woman and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
During this prison sentence is when Fennell allegedly confessed to the murder of Stites. According to an affidavit filed by Arthur Snow, a member of the Aryan Brotherhood who was in prison with Fennell, he confessed to murdering his fiancee because of her alleged affair with Reed.
The verdict of Reed’s sentence was allegedly racially charged, since Reed is a black man, and his verdict was decided by an all-white jury in, “the rural part of Texas,” according to Benjet.
The decision to execute Reed sparked a lot of controversy online, including online petitions created in favor of freeing Reed. Many celebrities, including Beyonce, Rihanna, Busta Rhymes, Meek Mill, Kim Kardashian West, T. I., and Questlove, have shown their support for freeing Reed via tweets and speaking out about the Reed case. A petition on freerodneyreed.com reached over 2 million signatures.
“Twenty years or more have passed and things are changing, and I think this case will bring about a change,” said Sandra Reed, Rodney’s mother. “The truth will and shall set him free.”
Now that Reed has been granted indefinite stay of execution, and the trial has gained so much public attention, it appears that Reed may receive justice after all.
“I am innocent in this case. Absolutely innocent,” Reed told NBC Nightly News in a Nov. 6 interview. “I am cautiously optimistic that something good has got to happen.”