Bastrop Co. death row inmate appeals to federal court


by KRIS BETTS / KVUE News and Photojournalist DATHAN HULL

Bio | Email | Follow: @KrisB_KVUE

Posted on December 4, 2013 at 11:14 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 5 at 8:52 AM

AUSTIN -- Friends and family of death row prisoner Rodney Reed hope this time they'll get a second chance.

“We're so happy that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals granted Rodney this oral argument,” said Rodney’s mother Sandra Reed outside the State Capitol Wednesday.

Rodney Reed was in New Orleans to present a 30-minute argument to a federal appeals judge to request a new trial, after six denied appeals in Texas.

In 1996 Reed was arrested for raping and murdering then 19-year-old Stacey Stites in Bastrop County based on DNA evidence.

Reed claims he and Stites were having an affair.

“I could have testified to that fact because Stacey had been to my home many times to pick up Rodney,” said Sandra Reed.

Reed's lawyers claimed Stite's fiancé, and then Gidding's police officer Jimmy Fennell, killed her when he found out.

“I believe this was a case that consists of conspiracy and a cover-up for a police officer,” said Sandra Reed.

However an all-white jury found Reed guilty and now his family wants a retrial based on new evidence.

The defense says they weren't told about beer cans found at the scene of the murder containing DNA pointing to Fennel, or about a witness who claimed to see Stites and Fennell together the morning she was killed.

The original medical examiner in the case, Roberto Bayardo, recently recanted part of his testimony, claiming prosecutors misconstrued his report.

Bayardo says it is possible Reed’s sperm could have been deposited days before Stite’s death, not hours as the prosecution originally argued.

“You know a black man dating a white woman, the fiancé of a police officer. I think that race very much has something to do with it,” said Lily Hughes, the director of The Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals did not announce a decision after Wednesday’s hearing.

Fennell is currently in prison. He pleaded guilty to the 2007 kidnapping and sexual assault of a woman in his custody while he was a Georgetown police officer.