Lawyers make case for Rodney Reed's innocence at appeal hearing

Lawyers for Rodney Reed will begin to make the case Monday that he was wrongfully convicted for the murder of Stacey Stites in Bastrop 25 years ago. Attorneys will argue Reed is innocent at an appeal hearing at District Court in Bastrop beginning at 9:00 AM Monday.

The hearing could last the better part of two weeks. Reed made an initial appearance in court on July 6 for a preliminary hearing, where lawyers and the judge worked through procedural issues and motions ahead of this main hearing.

19-year-old Stacey Stites’ body was found in Bastrop in 1996. Reed was convicted of murder after his DNA was found on her, but he has always maintained he’s innocent. Reed was sentenced to death, but that was put on hold in 2019--and just weeks ago Reed was taken off Texas’ death row for now, while this latest court process plays out.

Beginning Monday, Reed’s lawyers are expected to present new evidence and call witnesses that they say will show he is innocent. They are expected to argue that this new information will prove Reed was not with Stites when she died, pointing instead to Stites’ then-fiance Jimmy Fennell for the murder.

"We have alleged there was suppression of evidence, we've alleged actual innocence, and we alleged the state used false evidence," said Reed’s attorney Andrew MacRae at the July 6 hearing.

"It’ll be interesting to bring in all the evidence that they can bring," said Sandra Reed, speaking with FOX 7’s Bridget Spencer earlier this month. "The time of death is so crucial, and we have new witnesses to corroborate.

Sandra Reed added, "It still gives me hope. I’m still optimistic."

Ahead of Monday’s hearing, family, friends, and supporters of Rodney Reed joined together for a vigil at the Kerr Community Center in Bastrop Sunday night. Reed’s brother Rodrick was among those who spoke out, alongside Central Texas faith leaders and anti-death-penalty activists. The group kept the vigil going all night to show their support.

"Tell a neighbor, tell a friend, go to your Facebook pages, and demand justice for Rodney Reed," said Mark Clements of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, speaking at the vigil.

Speaking to FOX 7 in recent years, Stacey Stites’ family and Jimmy Fennell’s attorney say Reed was rightfully convicted at his 1998 trial, and that the evidence in the case clearly shows he is guilty. So far the prosecution has declined to comment on the appeal process. 


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