Show your support for Rodney

November 24, 2014

Monday and Tuesday of this week will be national call-in days in solidarity with Rodney Reed, who is facing death in two month's time in the Texas execution chamber for a crime he didn't commit. Reed's supporters have called for a phone, fax and e-mail jam to the office of the Bastrop County District Attorney. On Tuesday, activists will be on hand at the Bastrop County courthouse for an important hearing.

In this edited version of a statement for the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Lily Hughes explains the facts of Reed's case--and the urgent need to stand with him.

TEXAS DEATH row prisoner Rodney Reed has been given an execution date of January 14, 2015. The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to hear an appeal from Reed, although his case has attracted widespread attention because of shocking evidence that suggests he was framed.

The state agreed to limited DNA testing which is ongoing, and Reed's lawyers have made a motion for more expansive DNA testing, which will be decided on at hearing on Tuesday, November 25th. These DNA tests could be the basis for a new appeal.

Rodney's supporters were appalled and dismayed by the latest denial in the courts, this time by the highest court in the land. The sheer bulk of evidence collected over the years merits a reversal of Reed's conviction--or at least the opportunity for another trial where all the evidence can be presented.

RODNEY REED was convicted of the 1996 rape and murder of Stacey Stites. At the time, Stites was engaged to Jimmy Fennell Jr., a police officer in the nearby town of Giddings. At the same time, she was having an affair with Reed. Both Stites and Fennell are white; Reed is Black. Rodney was tried by an all-white jury in a small Texas town.

What you can do

With Rodney Reed facing an important hearing, his family and supporters are calling for a phone, e-mail and fax jam to the office of Bastrop County District Attorney Bryan Goertz.

Please ask that all the DNA testing in Rodney's case be completed and that the execution date be dropped. Call 512-581-7125, fax 512-581-7133 and e-mail [email protected].

At the same time, please take to social media especially on Monday and Tuesday to spread the word about Rodney's case. Tweet and post articles on Facebook about Rodney's case using the hashtag #Justice4Rodney. You could also include other hashtags like #evidencematters, #nodeathpenalty.

Instagram users should take solidarity pictures on the day of action to post on the Justice4Rodney Instagram page and in the album at the Free Rodney Reed Facebook page. Post them with hashtag #justice4rodney and let us know where you're from.

For the hearing on November 25, supporters want to pack the courthouse to show that we stand with Rodney and that we won't allow for the state of Texas to get away with murdering him. The hearing begins at 9 a.m.

Anti-death penalty activists will car pool from Austin--meet at 8 a.m. in the parking lot at the corner of Angelina and 12th Street. E-mail [email protected] about joining the carpool. For more information, contact the Austin Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

The only evidence linking Reed to the crime was semen DNA. But no evidence of rape was found--and Reed admitted to having sexual relations with Stites days before. Today, the medical examiner who testified for the prosecution in the original trial, Robert Bayardo, has said publicly that the state misconstrued his statements, using Reed's DNA to place him at the scene of the murder. But the state has refused to listen to their former witness.

Meanwhile, substantial evidence points to another killer: Jimmy Fennell Jr. Fennell is currently serving time after being convicted of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a woman he detained while on duty in Georgetown, Texas. The evidence linking Fennell, not Reed, to the murder is troubling:

At new hearings for Reed in 2006, a witness testified to seeing Stites and Fennell together in the early morning hours of the day of her murder.

Another witness testified that Fennell once said he would strangle his girlfriend with a belt if he found her cheating on him--the exact manner in which Stites was killed.

Death penalty opponents demand justice for Rodney Reed, on death row in Texas
Death penalty opponents demand justice for Rodney Reed, on death row in Texas

Fennell was an original suspect and failed multiple lie detector tests when asked if he had strangled Stites.

DNA found at the crime scene was linked to two police officers who Fennell worked with. Prosecutors failed to give this evidence to the defense during the original trial.

The original investigation found no fingerprints of Reed's in the truck that investigators say was used to dump Stites' body, only those fingerprints of Stites and Fennell.

Before the defense could have access to the truck or request further testing of any of this forensic evidence, police returned the truck to Fennell. He sold it the very next day.

Since the time of Reed's last evidentiary hearing, still more new facts have come to light, including the affidavit about the forensic evidence provided by the former medical examiner. Yet this crucial evidence has been dismissed by the state courts, most recently by the federal 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, despite the fact that a life hangs on the line.

Because of the troubling evidence that he was framed and railroaded, Rodney Reed's case has been the subject of national media attention, attracting articles in The Nation and elsewhere. More than 12,000 people have signed an online petition supporting him, and he is the subject of a documentary State vs. Reed: A Question of Justice on Texas' Death Row (you can watch it on YouTube). The Intercept website recently published an-depth investigation titled "Is Texas Getting Ready to Kill an Innocent Man?"

The backdrop to this case is the epidemic of wrongful convictions in Texas. The example of Cameron Todd Willingham--who was proven to be innocent of the 1991 murder of his family, but only after he was executed--shows that the rush to execution has left a trail of broken lives in its wake.

With all the evidence pointing to a police officer as the real murderer, Reed's case paints a particularly troubling picture about a rigged system. Will Texas execute another innocent man?

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