Even though a white dirty ex-cop reportedly bragged about killing his fiancée, a Black man the woman allegedly had a secret affair with has sat in prison for the past 21 years after being convicted of murdering her.
Rodney Reed, 51, is set to be executed Nov. 20 in the strangulation death of Stacey Stites, a white woman, April 23, 1996, in Bastrop County, Texas, according to the Innocence Project.
The nonprofit representing Reed and others it’s fighting to see exonerated said on its website that the legal team for Reed filed an application for clemency Thursday with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Reed’s attorneys asked in their application that the board recommend to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott a commutation of the inmate’s death sentence in light of “mounting new evidence of his innocence,” the Innocence Project said.
Cited in the application is a new sworn affidavit by fellow prison mate and neo-Nazi gang member, Arthur Snow of the Aryan Brotherhood.
Snow, who was in prison for forgery, stated that the victim’s fiancé, Jimmy Fennell, bragged about Stites’ murder while Fennell was serving a 10-year prison sentence for kidnapping and sexual assaulting a woman in his custody in 2007, according to the Statesman.
“He was talking about his fiance with a lot of hatred and anger,” Snow said in the three-page affidavit. “Jimmy said his fiance had been sleeping around with a black man behind his back.”
So Fennell killed her, Snow alleged. He is the fourth new witness defense attorneys produced to halt Reed’s execution, the Statesman reported.
Reed has maintained that he did not kill Stites.
“Early on I was somewhat upset, just for knowing her. If I wouldn’t have known her, I wouldn’t have been associated with her [and] I wouldn’t be in this situation,” Reed told ABC News in a prison interview Wednesday. “But, this is the situation that was handed to me so I have [to] accept … that I did know her.
“I have to accept that there was a relationship. I have to accept that I’m here now for something that I didn’t do.”
Reed was convicted by an all-white jury when DNA from Stites’ body matched Reed’s, but the man admitted he was having an affair with the woman, according to The Guardian.
Since his conviction in 1998, his case has attracted national attention and prompted a wide array of advocates to speak out on his behalf, including Sister Helen Prejean, a nun and anti-death penalty activist.
She tweeted Feb. 16, 2015:
“#RodneyReed has maintained his innocence for 18 years. Take a look at the case and you’ll see why.”
Reed’s lead attorney, Bryce Benjet of the Innocence Project, said in September that the state’s continued refusal to perform DNA testing of the murder weapon, a leather belt used to strangle Stites, violates Reed’s constitutional rights, according to The Guardian.
Reed’s legal team believes new evidence would prove that Jimmy Fennell, Stites’ fiancé at the time of her death, was the murderer.
Prosecutors, however, have fought to deny the testing, arguing the belt had been contaminated after it was handled repeatedly during and after Reed’s trial, according to the Statesman.
Several items were also packaged with the murder weapon allowing potential DNA to mingle, prosecutors said, according to the newspaper.
Texas Rep. Vikki Goodwin told The Guardian earlier this year she was lobbying for a retrial for Reed.
“I don’t think anyone can say he is guilty without a shadow of a doubt,” she said. “I don’t believe we should carry out the death penalty when there’s doubt about the truth of the case.”