Judge Rules Against DNA Testing in Reed Case

Resets the execution date for March 5

Rodney Reed
Rodney Reed

A last-ditch effort to introduce new DNA testing into the case of Rodney Reed was denied Tuesday evening shortly after 5pm in a Bastrop County courtroom. Visiting Judge Doug Shaver ruled against the Bastrop native, on death row since 1998. Supporters for Reed said that Shaver’s reasoning was not clear.

In addition to denying the testing, Shaver accepted a motion from the state to move Reed’s execution date from Jan. 14, 2015 to March 5, 2015 – an interesting move considering that the state presented testimony on Tuesday that the “untimely application for the DNA testing” had amounted to an “unreasonable delay in the execution date.” That information was relayed through the Campaign to End the Death Penalty’s Lily Hughes, who was in the courtroom throughout the day. She added: “They said it was a tactic to delay the execution.”

Reed, 46, was convicted in 1998 for the April 1996 killing of 19-year-old Stacey Stites. Stites’ body was found by the side of a road near Bastrop. DNA from semen found inside her body linked Reed to the crime, though it’s been hotly contested as to whether he was in fact the killer. (Aside from the DNA, there was no other physical evidence linking Reed to the crime. Reed maintains that he was having a secretive affair with Stites before her death.) In recent years, support has mounted for the possibility that Stites' then-fiancé Jimmy Fennell Jr., a former Georgetown police sergeant currently serving time in prison for rape, actually killed her.

DNA testing has occurred throughout the lengthy appeals process, though never on a piece of the belt used to strangle Stites to death. The motion to test the items was introduced in July at the hearing in which Reed’s January execution date was set. Hughes said the defense spent a portion of Tuesday’s proceedings trying to convince Judge Shaver that there had been changes to the laws surrounding DNA testing that made the kind of testing they were asking for available.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Reed’s appeal for a new trial on the basis that he received incompetent legal help during his initial trial in 1998.

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Rodney Reed, death penalty, Stacey Stites, Jimmy Fennell Jr.

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