BASTROP COUNTY, Texas - The court process is set to begin Tuesday morning in Rodney Reed’s effort to show he is innocent in the murder of Stacey Stites a quarter-century ago. The hearing comes days after Reed was taken off Texas’ death row, at least for now.
Reed is expected to appear Tuesday in Bastrop District Court for a preliminary hearing. Lawyers will work out pre-trial issues ahead of an appeal hearing in two weeks during which Reed’s attorneys will present evidence they say supports his innocence.
Stacey Stites’ body was found in Bastrop in 1996, while she was engaged to then-police officer Jimmy Fennell. Two years later, Reed was convicted of her murder after his DNA was found on her, and sentenced to death.
Reed, however, has always maintained he is innocent—with his case garnering national attention and celebrities calling for him to be given a new trial.
In 2019 a judge put his execution on hold, sending the case back to court in Bastrop.
During the appeal hearing, which is scheduled to begin on July 19, Reed’s lawyers will present evidence they say proves Fennell is actually responsible for Stites’ death. The hearing could last up to two weeks.
"My brother is innocent. And we have mounds of evidence in medical forensic science, proving his innocence," said Rodney Reed’s brother Rodrick at a rally on Saturday. "It feels good because we believe that hopefully with this upcoming evidentiary hearing, he doesn't have to go back to Livingston. He doesn't have to go back to Polanski death row."
"I think that the justice system has been doing a good job and we want him to have his due process, but at the end of the day the man is guilty of violently raping and murdering my sister," said Stites’ sister Debra Oliver, speaking to FOX 7 in January 2020.
Speaking to FOX 7, Stacy Stites’ family and Jimmy Fennell’s attorney have said Reed was rightfully convicted back in 1998. They say the evidence shows he is guilty.
Although the US Supreme Court declined to take up Reed’s appeal in 2020, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Reed "presented a substantial body of evidence that, if true, casts doubt on the case," and left the door open to the high court taking up the case at a later date.
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