Just one day after prominent forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden said in a Fox News interview broadcast Thursday it is “medically and scientifically impossible” that Rodney Reed, the man sentenced to die in the 1996 strangling death of a white woman, committed the crime, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals acted Friday to halt Reed’s execution and send the case back to the trial court to review several claims his lawyers have raised.
Reed, 51, had been set to be executed Nov. 20 in the death of Stacey Stites in Bastrop County, Texas.
The ruling by the highest court in the Lone Star State came just hours after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended Gov. Greg Abbott stay the execution by 120 days. The court’s ruling removes the governor from the process as the case works its way back through the judicial system.
Although Reed has maintained that he was having a secret affair with the victim, he was convicted of abducting, raping and murdering Stites when semen was found inside of her that matched his DNA.
The trial, however did not include key DNA testing that could exonerate Reed, Baden told Fox. He also said the prosecution misrepresented facts leading the jury to believe Reed had to be Stites’ killer.
“The experts for the prosecution at trial completely erroneously said that the semen were there only for a few hours, otherwise they would disappear,” Baden said. “And that’s false. It was false then. It’s false now.”
Baden was accompanied by Reed’s attorney Bryce Benjet for the Fox interview, and both men said race played a factor in Reed’s conviction.
Benjet told Fox the element of rape only came up after the police’s lead suspect, the victim’s fiancé Jimmy Fennell, pleaded the Fifth and a Black man’s DNA was found in Stites.
Fennell failed two polygraph tests regarding his innocence, Benjet said.
Baden also cited in his push for further investigation into Reed’s case the lack of DNA testing on the belt used to strangle Stites and on the truck she was found in.
“She’s white. He’s black,” the pathologist said of Reed and Stites. “It wasn’t credible that he would have consensual sex with her at that time when this happened.”
Fennell, who was convicted of kidnapping and “improper sexual activity with a person in custody” in an unrelated crime, reportedly bragged about killing Stites for sleeping with a Black man, according to a statement from fellow prison mate, Arthur Snow.
Attorneys for Reed used Snow’s statement in a writ of habeas corpus filed Monday requesting Reed’s conviction and death sentence be vacated or that the case be sent to the District Court for an evidentiary hearing.
“The forensic evidence shows he could not have been with her at the time of death,” Baden said of Reed. “She was already decomposing when her DNA was found in a truck, in the driver’s side.”