Death Watch: Lawmakers Ask for Rodney Reed Reprieve

Texas House Criminal Justice Reform Caucus joins celebrities, activists asking to stay the Nov. 20 execution


Rodney Reed in 2017 (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Developments in the Rodney Reed case have gone from a weekly to a daily occurrence. The death row inmate's attorneys filed an application for clemency with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Oct. 30, asking the BPP to recommend that Gov. Greg Abbott commute Reed's sentence, citing new evidence of innocence. Reed is scheduled for execution on Nov. 20 for the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites in Bastrop. The centerpiece of the BPP petition is a purported confession by Jimmy Fennell, the only other suspect in Stites' murder, attested to in an affidavit by Aryan Brotherhood member Arthur Snow Jr.

In the affidavit, Snow states that Fennell (who, 11 years after Stites' death, kidnapped and raped a woman while working as a Georgetown police officer, for which he served prison time) approached him in 2010 at the Stevenson Unit in Cuero, wanting the protection of the Aryan Brotherhood, and they cut a deal. He recounts a conversation he had with Fennell as the two walked the track at the Stevenson rec yard. "He was talking about his fiancée with a lot of hatred and anger," Snow says. "Jimmy said his fiancée had been sleeping around with a black man behind his back. ... Toward the end of the conversation, Jimmy said confidently, 'I had to kill my n*****-loving fiancée.'"

On Monday, the European Union asked Abbott to halt Reed's execution and order DNA testing on the belt used to strangle Stites, which Reed's attorneys have been trying to get Texas courts to do for years. The same day, activist Shaun King announced on Twitter that, in under 24 hours, more than 500,000 people from all 50 states and 100 countries had signed a petition asking for a stay of execution. Meanwhile, Rihanna, Questlove, and LL Cool J have joined Kim Kardashian West in tweeting their support for Reed.

On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of Texas legislators joined the chorus. In the first official action of the Texas House Criminal Justice Reform Caucus, Reps. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) and Jeff Leach (R-Plano), along with 24 other House members from both parties, sent a letter to Abbott asking that he stop "a rush to execution" and grant Reed a reprieve. Explicitly acknowledging the arguments advanced by Reed's attorneys, the lawmakers wrote: "The case that put Mr. Reed on death row has been called into serious question by compelling new witness statements and forensic evidence. ..."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Death Watch, Rodney Reed, Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, Greg Abbott, Jimmy Fennell, Stacey Stites, Arthur Snow Jr., European Union, Shaun King, Texas House Criminal Justice Reform Caucus, Joe Moody, Jeff Leach,

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