Capital Judicial Pinball

Rodney Reed Case Back in Court

Capital Judicial Pinball

At press time, lawyers for convicted death row inmate Rodney Reed were preparing for a hearing in Bastrop Co. district court, where Reed's case was remanded for a hearing based on his contention that prosecutors stifled exculpatory evidence during his original trial. Reed was convicted in May 1998 for the rape and murder of 20-year-old Stacey Stites. Prosecutors argued that Reed overcame Stites in the predawn hours of April 23, 1996, as she drove from Giddings to Bastrop to work a shift at the HEB. The state's theory was based solely on DNA that matched Reed – no other physical evidence tied him to the crime. Reed has maintained his innocence, explaining that his DNA was found on Stites because the two had been having an affair, while Stites was engaged to former Giddings police officer Jimmy Fennell. (Reed's supporters contend that Fennell is a far more likely suspect in the murder – he knew of the affair, they maintain, and was not at all happy about it. For more on the case, see "Who Killed Stacey Stites?" May 24, 2002.)

According to appeals filed by lawyers with the Texas Defender Service, Reed's attorneys have uncovered evidence supporting his innocence that was never made available to the defense. Among the allegedly withheld information is the testimony of Martha Barnett, who said she saw Stites and Fennell together around 5am on the morning she was killed. Barnett's attorney, former Lee Co. Attorney Steven Keng, said in an affidavit that he passed Barnett's information to Bastrop Co. District Attorney Charles Pennick, who prosecuted Reed, but Pennick laughed at the story, saying only that he "did not want to hear any more about the case."

The potentially explosive evidence prompted the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in October to send Reed's case back to Bastrop Co., where a district judge will consider its validity, and potential impact on Reed's conviction, during a two-day hearing starting today, March 23.

Got something to say on the subject? Send a letter to the editor.

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

  • More of the Story

  • Naked City

    Headlines and Happenings from Austin and Beyond

    Evacuee Limbo, Eviction Trickle

    FEMA stops sending money at the end of the month to cities for paying the rent of hurricane evacuees; apartment eviction notices are already showing up on some New Orleanians' doors; thousands of displaced evacuees are in rental properties throughout the area; talk amongst yourselves
  • Edna Injustice Update

    After more than a year-and-a-half in prison for a crime he insists he did not commit, Rick Patterson, one of 29 blacks arrested and charged with selling drugs in Edna, Texas, was granted parole.

    Forgione Now Suggests Closing Becker and Oak Springs Outright

    "Repurposing" has turned into "closure."

    The Rhythm of Peace

    Anti-war weekend warriors mark third anniversary of Iraq invasion in Million Musician March

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Rodney Reed
Judge: No New Trial for Rodney Reed
Judge: No New Trial for Rodney Reed
Bastrop County judge's recommendation comes after Reed's attorney argued new evidence warranted a trial

Brant Bingamon, Nov. 5, 2021

At Reed Hearing, Fennell Breaks Silence, Says
At Reed Hearing, Fennell Breaks Silence, Says "They're All Liars"
Victim's fiancé long suspected in 1996 killing, denies all guilt

Brant Bingamon, July 30, 2021

More by Jordan Smith
'Chrome Underground' Goes Classic Car Hunting
'Chrome Underground' Goes Classic Car Hunting
Motoreum's Yusuf & Antonio talk about the biz and their reality TV debut

May 22, 2014

APD Brass Shifts Up, Down, Across
APD Brass Shifts Up, Down, Across
Musical chairs at Downtown HQ

May 9, 2014


Rodney Reed, Stacey Stites, Steven Keng, Charles Pennick, Texas Defender Service, death penalty, Court of Criminal Appeals, prosecutorial misconduct, Martha Barnett, Jimmy Fennell

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle