Rodney Reed's lawyers bring in first witness of appeal hearing

Death row inmate Rodney Reed appeared before a district judge on Monday for day one of his appeal hearing. Reed was accused of strangling 19-year-old Stacy Stites in 1996 and leaving her body on the side of the road in Bastrop County.

He was sentenced to death in 1998 and has been imprisoned ever since. He was brought back to Bastrop County Monday for an appeal hearing. His lawyers said they have new evidence that could exonerate him.

"Only thing that can stand in our way is corruption. Because if the truth be told, my brother is coming home," Rodrick Reed said.

On day one of the appeal hearing, the defense and state did their opening statements. After which, the defense brought their first witness in: Dr. Andrew Baker, an independent forensic pathologist. He concluded that Stites died hours before the 3 to 5 a.m. window that the state originally said. He also said there are inconsistencies about bruising and DNA left on the body.

"He was on point. He is showing there was no actual rape. He's showing the world how they lied," said Rodrick Reed.

In the afternoon, the state began to cross-examine the doctor, questioning parts of his testimony. They questioned his rigor mortis findings, which further put into question the time of death. Dr. Baker stood by his testimony the majority of the cross-examination.

"We feel a lot more confident. That being said, we already know my brother is innocent of his crime. We already know about the timeline and everything about the hours before," Rodrick Reed said.

Reed's defense said if this new evidence they are presenting were brought forward back in 1996, a jury would not have convicted him.

The defense brought two more witnesses Monday afternoon. Wayne Fletcher, a former Bastrop County jail employee, stated Stites’ fiancé Jimmy Fennell told him Stites was having an affair with a black man. 

The defense also brought Ruby Volek to the witness stand. She testified that Fennell worked security at her life insurance company. She also said Stites filled out a life insurance application in front of Fennell, and he said "If I catch you messing around on me, I’ll kill you."

The hearing is expected to last a total of 10 days.


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