Execution date set for Rodney Reed

BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) — A man convicted of a 1996 rape and murder will be executed at 6 p.m. Jan. 14, 2015, a visiting judge ruled Monday in Bastrop.

Attorneys for the Innocence Project, who were in court for Rodney Reed’s defense, argued there is more evidence in the case that needs to undergo DNA testing.

Reed is in prison for the rape and murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites. His family claims prosecutors withheld evidence during the trial.

“If Rodney Reed was tried today, every piece of evidence in his case would have been tested,” said Bryce Benjet, an attorney with the Innocence Project. “Now, we believe that he should not be executed until we are certain we know what actually happened here.”

Judge Doug Shaver said Monday he would allow limited DNA testing.

“Ultimately, we were only able to get the state to agree to test to a very limited number of items including some hairs, as well as the rape kit taken from the victim,” said Benjet.

Still, Reed’s defense believes there is even more evidence that needs to be examined.

“There was evidence in this case that the victim was strangled with a belt. There was evidence that her clothing was ripped. There was evidence that things in the car were riffled through. All by the perpetrator of this crime,” Benjet said. “This obviously, is something we want to test, but by no means is everything that needs to be tested.”

Family and friends gathered outside the courtroom in support of Reed. They prayed and declared their dedication to the case.

“I’m just praying. I’m staying prayerful,” said Hattie Felix, Rodney Reed’s aunt.

“I want y’all to know we’ve got to strap up our boots just a little bit tighter and fight a little bit harder now because they’ve got us under a date,” said another member of the crowd. “A date that we do not want to see.”

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his appeal for a new trial.

Benjet says the defense will seek a hearing on a motion to conduct additional DNA testing in the case.

“Can it prove that Rodney Reed was innocent and the State is trying to execute him? Absolutely. We need DNA testing to prove his innocence and prevent what could be a horrible miscarriage of justice.”

Benjet says a petition has also been filed with the Supreme Court. It should be considered this summer.

The Innocence Project fought for additional DNA testing in the case against Michael Morton and won, eventually leading to his release after 25 years behind bars.

The state argued the case has gone on for years. Courts have denied Reed an appeal.

And, while there is that agreement to test some DNA, the judge set Reed’s execution date for this January.

The Innocence Project is also putting a focus on the fiancé of victim Stacey Stites. He was a police officer named Jimmy Fennell.

Fennell found himself on the wrong side of the law in 2008. He’s in prison after pleading guilty to kidnapping and improper sexual activity with a person in custody.

KXAN News spoke with Fennell’s last known attorney — Robert M. Phillips.

Phillips calls the Reed supporters’ statements “the remarks and allegations of a desperate convicted killer.”

He calls the claims about Fennell outrageous and says there is no evidence to support the claims.

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