BASTROP, Texas – A man on death row for a 1996 murder is asking a court this week to reconsider testimony from his trial.
Rodney Reed was convicted and sentenced to death in 1998 for the murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites, whose body was found on the side of a Bastrop County road in April 1996.
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.
Rodney Reed's defense attorneys are trying to include forensic evidence from the murder that they said will prove Reed is innocent.
Defense attorneys brought in Curtis Davis as a witness at Tuesday’s hearing. He was a best friend of Fennell's and is a criminal investigator for the Bastrop County Sheriff's Office.
He talked to Fennell the night before Stites' body was found and the day of. He also recently interviewed with CNN.
"My intent was to give the side of the story I didn't think was being given,” Davis said in Tuesday's testimony.
According to Fennell's testimony in the original trial, he came home with Stites and went to sleep around 10 p.m. the night before Stites' body was found.
But according to Davis’ testimony and his CNN interview, that is contradicted; Fennell came home around 10 p.m. and went to sleep at a later time, according to Davis.
"What we are arguing to the court is that Mr. Fennell has not been consistent about his statements about this period of time,” said Bryce Benjet, one of Reed’s defense attorneys with the Innocence Project.
Fennell’s counsel, Robert Phillips, based out of Georgetown, spoke at the hearing, saying he has advised Fennell to invoke his rights under the Fifth Amendment to not testify.
In a statement, Fennell’s attorney said, “It is not because Mr. Fennell would be changing his testimony from the original Rodney Reed trial -- he would not -- or because he has anything to hide -- he does not. It is solely because I, as his lawyer, believe that the credible testimony he gave twenty years ago at the original trial cannot be clarified or improved upon in any subsequent testimony.”
Fennell’s attorney went on to say in the statement: “At the original trial, a multiplicity of extraneous sexual assault offenses, represented in the testimony of several victims, one of whom was as young as 12-years-old, proved that Reed is a serial rapist and killer.”
Reed’s hearing this week could possibly lead to a new trial but that is up to the state to decide. Visiting judge Doug Shaver is presiding over the hearing.
Reed’s execution dates have been pushed back several times, with an indefinite stay currently in place.
Follow reporter Rebeca Trejo for updates from the courtroom:
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