Rodney Reed Hearing Set for October

Exculpatory evidence at issue in four-day hearing

Rodney Reed in 2002
Rodney Reed in 2002 (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Rodney Reed, the Bastrop man living for nearly two decades on death row for the murder of Stacey Stites, will get another chance to prove he’s not a murderer beginning Oct. 10. Bastrop County’s online court database notes that a three-day hearing is set for Oct. 10-13 in Judge Carson Campbell’s 21st District court in Bastrop.

In May, the state’s Court of Criminal Appeals remanded the case to the trial court and ordered a hearing on the grounds that Reed and his attorneys say they have evidence that points to Jimmy Fennell Jr., Stites’ fiancé at the time, being her killer. Reed's attorneys had filed a motion last June that argues their client deserves a rehearing on the grounds that information obtained by CNN during interviews for an episode of the network’s show Death Row Stories points to a conflicting detail in the timeline Fennell provided to investigators after Stites’ murder.

The former Giddings police officer, who’s now serving a 10-year prison sentence for raping a woman he held in custody, had said in his official statement two days after Stites’ body was found (and later in court during Reed’s capital murder trial) that he spent the entire evening with her on April 22, 1996, and slept through her departure for an early-morning shift at a Bastrop H-E-B. But what CNN had learned and passed on to Reed's legal team via a dictation of a portion of an interview transcript with former Bastrop County sheriff’s deputy and Fennell’s old best friend Curtis L. Davis, was that Fennell had told Davis that he actually spent the night of April 22 drinking beer with fellow police officers by his truck after a Little League baseball practice. Davis allegedly revealed to CNN that Fennell told him the next morning that he didn’t return home to Stites until 10 or 11 o’clock that night.

That’s not the first time that such a discrepancy has come up. The former cop has long provided conflicting chronologies of his actions around the time of the murder (Bryce Benjet, Reed's lead attorney, lists six different instances in a February 2015 motion for a rehearing), and previously untested evidence is mounting that indicates Fennell was present at many points during the full timetable relevant to Stites’ murder – though the state has, to date, stonewalled Reed’s team from getting that evidence analyzed.

This story has been updated to better reflect when the Court of Criminal Appeals issued its ruling in Reed's case.

The Chronicle has covered Rodney Reed’s case for nearly 20 years. For more, visit our Rodney Reed archive.

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More Rodney Reed
BREAKING: Rodney Reed Granted Stay of Execution
BREAKING: Rodney Reed Granted Stay of Execution
Citing new evidence, CCA remands case to Bastrop trial court

Mike Clark-Madison, Nov. 15, 2019

Rodney Reed Clemency Filing Cites Fourth New Witness
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Former prison mate says Fennell confessed crime in 2010

Brant Bingamon, Oct. 31, 2019

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Rodney Reed, Bryce Benjet, Stacey Stites, Jimmy Fennell Jr., Curtis Davis

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