BASTROP, Texas – After four days of a hearing for Rodney Reed -- a man on death row for the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites -- the Court of Criminal Appeals will now decide whether he will get a new trial.
Stites' body was found on the side of a Bastrop County road in April 1996. Reed was then convicted of murdering the 19-year-old and was sentenced to death in 1998. His defense has argued his original case included misleading testimony and evidence that has been called into question, including evidence that points to a separate suspect – Jimmy Fennell – who was Stites’ fiancé and a law enforcement officer at the time. Fennell is currently in jail on kidnapping and improper sexual conduct charges stemming from a different incident.
The four day hearing wrapped up after less than an hour Friday morning with Judge Doug Shafer saying he may need up to two months to give his recommendations to the Court of Criminal Appeals on what should happen.
Reed was convicted in 1998 and sentenced to die, and his execution has been pushed back multiple times.
Reed’s attorneys are questioning the whereabouts of Stites’ fiancé, Jimmy Fennel, and spent part of Thursday focusing on the timeline of when Stites was killed.
All week long, Reed's defense tried to prove that new evidence shows their client did not murder Stites in 1996, pointing instead to her fiancé -- Jimmy Fennell -- as the man who committed the crime.
Fennell told police he was home at 8 p.m. with Stites the night before she was murdered, and based off expert analysis, that would clear him of the crime. In a recent interview with CNN, Curtis Davis -- a man who claims to be Fennell's good friend -- said Fennell told him he went out drinking that night before coming home around 10 p.m. This would change Fennell's timeline.
In closing arguments Friday, Reed's defense said this is enough for a new trial, saying "those are two diametrically opposed statements. Which one is true? The one to Mr. Davis. How do we know that? Because he was confiding in his best friend and he didn't have anything to hide."
The state argued differently.
"Whether Jimmy Fennell arrived late or not has absolutely nothing to do with the physical condition of Stacey Stites body," said Matthew Ottoway.
During Reed's original trial, medical expert testimony found that Reed's semen was found inside Stites' body.
"We have proven today lies, deceit, cover up that the state has done," Reed's mother, Sandra Reed, said after the hearing. "These very people in power can destroy you, too."
Reed's family said they're happy with the hearing and confident justice will be served.