[Rodney Reed Is Denied a New Trial Despite Evidence of Innocence] - The Intercept

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, or the CCA, had once again ruled against…Rodney Reed, who has been on death row since 1998 for a crime he swears he did not commit.

Reed, who is Black, was sentenced to death for the 1996 rape and murder of 19-year-old Stites, who was white. Her body was found on the side of a country road just outside Bastrop, Texas. Sperm recovered from Stites’s body was eventually matched to Reed, which prosecutors called the “Cinderella’s slipper” linking Reed to her death. But Reed insisted he was innocent; he said he’d been having an affair with Stites, who was engaged to a white police officer named Jimmy Fennell. Fennell denied the possibility of an affair, claiming that he and Stites had a loving relationship and she didn’t know anyone named Rodney Reed. Fennell was questioned several times but was never seriously considered as a suspect.

In the decades since Reed’s conviction, a host of evidence has emerged showing that Reed and Stites did know each other and Fennell was aware of their dalliance, dismantling the state’s theory of the crime. Evidence of Fennell’s propensity for violence has also surfaced; in 2008, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for kidnapping and sexually assaulting a woman while on duty and in uniform. He threatened to kill her if she told anyone about it. Meanwhile, the courts — most notably the CCA — have shrugged their shoulders and rebuffed Reed’s efforts to win a new trial.

In a pair of rulings issued on June 28, the CCA again denied Reed’s pleas, which the court has now done at least a dozen times since 2000. Each time, the court has flatly rejected the mounting evidence of Reed’s innocence, often in ways that mischaracterize the evidence or interpret the law to make the revelations meaningless. In the most recent rulings, the court trivializes nearly every detail that casts doubt on Reed’s guilt.

Dozens of witnesses have come forward with information that supports Reed’s account and points to Fennell as the more likely killer, including friends of Stites’s and Fennell’s law enforcement colleagues.

Despite overwhelming testimony in favor of Reed, the judge presiding over the evidentiary hearing fully embraced the state’s position that none of Reed’s witnesses were credible. Judge J.D. Langley signed off on findings written by the state, concluding that only the state’s witnesses, including Fennell, were reliable.

Reed’s attorneys challenged the ruling before the CCA, arguing that Langley had abdicated his responsibility to make independent determinations about witness credibility by simply adopting the state’s proposed conclusions, which were rife with errors and factual misrepresentations about various testimony….

Read the full story here

The Intercept

Locations: Texas 

Organizations: Texas Court of Criminal Appeals 

People: Rodney Reed Jimmy Fennell J.D. Langley Sharon Keller Jesse McClure 

Tags: Corruption Death Penalty Prison Crime 

Type: Headlines