BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) — The fate of death row inmate Rodney Reed’s case will again be in the hands of the Court of Criminal Appeals, following a four-day hearing in which Reed’s defense team sought to cast doubt on the alibi of the victim’s fiance and the time of death estimate the state used to convict Reed.
Visiting Judge Doug Shaver could take anywhere from six to eight weeks to make his ruling and send that to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. They will then decide if Reed will get a new trial, his conviction will be upheld or there will be further fact-finding and investigation.
In pointed closing remarks, defense attorney Andrew MacRae said Stacey Stites’ fiancé Jimmy Fennell gave false testimony at trial and independent forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden exposed flaws in the original medical examiner’s autopsy. Baden called into question the time of death estimate used by the prosecution at trial and said Stites could have been killed hours earlier and moved to the spot she was found. Baden said the original medical examiner, Dr. Roberto Bayardo, misinterpreted signs on the body as sexual assault, though they actually appeared normal.
“They continue to do what they have done for the past 20 years, hide evidence,” MacRae said about the state’s case and tactics. “The state didn’t try to discredit Baden because they couldn’t.”
In its own closing remarks, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Ottoway said Reed’s defense had failed, that testimony the defense relied on was based on hearsay and assumptions, that after 20 years the witnesses couldn’t accurately recall events leading up to the murder, and that the forensic pathologist’s testimony had no place at the hearing.
The defense has pointed to Fennell as the possible killer. He is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence on unrelated charges of kidnapping a woman in his custody and improper sexual conduct with her. The victim accused Fennell of rape when he was a Georgetown police officer.
Earlier in the morning, the victim’s mother Carol Stites took the stand. She brought her own copy of the Bible and asked the judge if she can swear on it but he said “no.” Carol Stites firmly believes Reed killed her daughter and doesn’t believe the two were involved in a relationship.
“They can talk to me about anything — about her being Rodney’s girlfriend — and it’s not true because that was not Stacey,” Carol Stites said earlier this week. “I have listened to them talk about her for 20 years and I am fed up with it. I am fed up with it more than you will ever know. Because that was not Stacey. Stacey was a friendly, loving person that worked hard for what she was doing about getting ready for her wedding. That’s the way I’m going to remember her.”
Carol Stites said she lived an apartment below Fennell and daughter, and she could hear her leave in the morning for work. Carol Stites said she saw her daughter and Fennell play fighting in the apartment yard the day before she was killed, and Stites’ last words to her were “I love you.”
This latest Bastrop hearing was called after a former friend of Fennell’s, Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office Investigator and former jailer Curtis Davis, told CNN that Fennell said he was out drinking the night prior to the murder. That statement ran contrary to Fennell’s testimony at trial. Fennell testified in 1997 that he had been at home asleep, not drinking, the night before Stites was found strangled and dumped on the side of a Bastrop road.
Davis confirmed that what was in the transcript of his CNN interview was accurate. However, under questioning by the state, Davis said his understanding of the timing of Fennell drinking and arriving home the night before the murder was based on assumptions. Ultimately, Davis did appear to confirm that Fennell said he was drinking the night before Stites was killed, but Davis said he did not know the exact time Fennell got home because he was not there and Fennell didn’t tell him.
Get Caught Up on the Rodney Reed Hearing
- Day 1: Witnesses cast doubt on victim’s fiance’s testimony & Jimmy Fennell pleads the Fifth
- Day 2: Expert coroner casts doubt on original timeline of Stacey Stites’ death
- Day 3: Rodney Reed’s original attorneys questioned