BIPARTISAN SENATORS URGE TEXAS GOVERNOR ABBOTT TO STOP NOVEMBER 20TH EXECUTION OF RODNEY REED

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[Criminal Justice News\Rodney Reed]
"Mr. Reed’s case recalls the sentiment then-Governor George W. Bush expressed in 1998 when he commuted the sentence against Henry Lee Lucas in the face of grave doubt about his guilt. 'As a supporter of the death penalty . . . I feel a special obligation to make sure the State of Texas never executes a person for a crime they may not have committed,' Bush said."
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Will Texas unjustly execute Rodney Reed for a murder most likely done by the victim's boyfriend--former Officer Jimmy Fennell, who alleged said he killed his "nigger loving fiancée,” because she was having a consentual relationship with Reed?

Eight Republican and eight Democratic Texas senators have signed a letter urging Governor Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant a reprieve to Rodney Reed, who is scheduled for execution on November 20.

Earlier last week, 26 other Texas lawmakers wrote to the Governor expressing an urgency to stop the execution. Reed has been on death row since 1998 for the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites in Bastrop, Texas. Since his trial, there is substantial evidence that exonerates Reed and implicates Stites’ then-fiancé Jimmy Fennell, a former local police officer.

“Granting Mr. Reed a reprieve until the new developments in his case are fully resolved will allow the cloud of doubt surrounding his guilt to be lifted. Only then should our justice system proceed with decisions that cannot be undone,” the letter sent on November 8 says.

The full text of the letter is below:

"Dear Governor Abbott, Chair Gutiérrez, and Board Members:

"We write to urge you to grant a reprieve to Rodney Reed.

"As you know, the case that put Mr. Reed on death row has been called into serious question by compelling new witness statements and forensic evidence along with evidentiary gaps that could be filled with additional investigation and testing. We appreciate how difficult decisions like this are and know how seriously you take them, but only you can postpone his execution to allow these new leads to be properly explored.

"One thing we often grapple with when discussing criminal justice reform is balancing justice with mercy, particularly when we consider a heinous crime. Executing Rodney Reed without certainty about his guilt erodes public trust—not only in capital punishment, but in Texas justice itself.

"Mr. Reed’s case recalls the sentiment then-Governor George W. Bush expressed in 1998 when he commuted the sentence against Henry Lee Lucas in the face of grave doubt about his guilt. “As a supporter of the death penalty . . . I feel a special obligation to make sure the State of Texas never executes a person for a crime they may not have committed,” he said. “I take this action so that all Texans can continue to trust the integrity and fairness of our criminal justice system.”

"Similarly, granting Mr. Reed a reprieve until the new developments in his case are fully resolved will allow the cloud of doubt surrounding his guilt to be lifted. Only then should our justice system proceed with decisions that cannot be undone."

There is much evidence indicating Stiles was likely killed by Fennell--because of the interracial affair, she was having with Reed.

Bastrop Sheriff’s Officer Charles Wayne Fletcher, a colleague and friend of Fennell at the time of Stites’ murder, establishes motives of both racial animus and revenge for Fennell against Stites. Fletcher described a deteriorating relationship between Fennell and Stites in March 1996 and recalls that Fennell made a disturbing and bigoted statement that Stites was having an affair: “… I remember clearly that Jimmy said that he believed Stacey was ‘f***ing a n*****’.” Fletcher also noted that Fennell had an “odd, emotionless behavior” at Stites’ funeral and burial services. “I was so disturbed by his behavior that it caused me to question whether he was involved in Stacey’s death,” Fletcher’s affidavit states. “I also chose to have no further interaction or communication with him.”

Fennell, who was an early suspect in the Stites’ rape and murder, later pleaded guilty to kidnapping and sex charges after he was indicted for abducting and raping a different woman who he encountered while on-duty as a Georgetown police officer. While incarcerated, Fennell allegedly made a revelation to Aryan Brother inmate, Arthur Snow, who stated “Jimmy said his fiancé had been sleeping around with a Black man behind his back. By the way, Jimmy spoke about this experience, I could tell that it deeply angered him. Toward the end of the conversation Jimmy said confidently, ‘I had to kill my n*****-loving fiancée.’”

Fennell's motive of revenge and racism has also been alleged by Jim Clampit, a deputy in the Lee County Sheriff’s Office at the time of the murder, to whom Fennell made an alarming and inculpatory statement at Stites’ funeral regarding Stites’ body. An insurance salesperson also stated that Fennell threatened to kill Stites while applying for life insurance. Reportedly, both gave affidavits to these allegations implicating Fennell.

 

Article was written by Innocence Project staff

For more information logon to www.innocenceproject.org

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