BASTROP, Texas — Death row inmate Rodney Reed is making another plea for a new trial.
On Friday morning, attorneys in the case filed a request for grant of application for writ of habeas corpus, claiming prosecutors in a 1998 trial hid statements from Stacy Stites' co-workers showing that Reed and Stites knew each other and were romantically involved.
In 1998, Reed was convicted in the 1996 abduction, rape and murder of 19-year-old Stites.
The petition comes six weeks after Judge J.D. Langley, who was ordered to review Reed's case, recommended the Court of Criminal Appeals to deny granting him a new trial. The appellate court still has to make a ruling in that petition.
Friday's application claims that the State illegally stifled statements from her neighbors about loud domestic violence arguments between Stites and her fiancé, Jimmy Fennell, a former suspect in the case.
“The prosecution’s concealment of statements from Stacey Stites’ co-workers and neighbors is a textbook example of a Brady violation. The constitutional violation is as crystal clear as the remedy: Rodney Reed’s conviction and death sentence must be overturned,” said Jane Pucher, senior staff attorney at the Innocence Project and one of Reed’s attorneys.
As the case has advanced in recent years, claims from former co-workers have surfaced saying Stites may have been having an affair with a Black man and neighbors have said they overheard abusive situations between Stites and Fennell.
Reed's lawyers now claim that, at trial, prosecutors repeatedly told the jury falsely that investigators “talked to all these people, and not one of them … ever said she was associated with that defendant. Ever. They weren’t dating according to anyone, there weren’t friends, they weren’t associates.”
They also claim that before Reed's July 2021 evidentiary hearing on a separate petition still pending, the State discovered exculpatory evidence showing that before trial, at least three of her co-workers gave statements to law enforcement and the prosecution that Reed and Stites were friends.
"But what happened here is that while we were preparing for Mr. Reed's evidentiary hearing this summer, about a month before we were scheduled to go to court, the state then revealed to us for the first time that they had information in their files showing that several witnesses connected Mr. Reed and Ms. Stites back at the time of his trial," said Pucher.
In a press release, Reed's representatives also said that the State disclosed for the first time on June 25, 2021, that a friend and co-worker of Stites, Suzan Hugen, told police she saw the duo together at H-E-B, where Stites introduced Reed as a close friend.
The lawyers say at least three co-workers of Stites have reportedly told police that Reed and Stites knew each other and that pre-trial interviews were not disclosed to Reed's attorneys for 23 years, until just before the July 2021 evidentiary hearing.
Reed was set to be executed on Nov. 20, 2019, until the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed his execution to allow the courts to consider new evidence.
Friday's filing adds to list of approximately a dozen that have been submitted since his conviction.
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