By Joshua Cenzano
BASTROP COUNTY, TX – Twenty-three years after his conviction, and death row pronunciation, Rodney Reed recently presented remarkably strong evidence to the 21st Judicial District Court in order to revisit his conviction in the murder of Stacey Stites.
His attorneys emphasize the State’s case was fundamentally flawed and that no reasonable jury would convict Reed with the evidence now available.
Following Stites’s 1996 murder, investigators uncovered two suspects: Stites’s fiancé Jimmy Fennell and Reed, with whom Stites had been having an affair.
Reed’s new defense at the evidentiary hearing rested on several prongs, offering a comprehensive rebuttal to the prosecution’s basis for conviction.
Despite the prosecution’s assertion that there was little evidence to support the claim that Reed and Stites had been having an affair during the initial 1998 trial, Reed has produced files from investigators demonstrating that there was in fact credible evidence in the State’s possession.
Statements from credible witnesses had not been presented at trial, and the jury was allowed to believe that the two were not in an intimate relationship.
This erroneous conclusion, said the defense team, formed the basis of the prosecution’s next basis for conviction: forensic evidence found on Stites’s body which matched Reed’s DNA.
At the recent evidentiary hearing, Reed’s attorneys noted that even if the prosecution’s conclusion was accurate, its conclusions drawn from the forensic evidence was nevertheless flawed, as its own experts testified.
The defense added that despite that, the forensic evidence is far less indicative of Reed’s guilt than the prosecution led the 1998 jury to believe since Reed was involved with the victim.
Reed’s defense also addressed the prosecution’s characterization of Stites and Fennell’s relationship.
The defense said tht although the State presented to the jury that their relationship was generally amiable in order to exculpate Stites’s fiancé, Reed produced credible witnesses who refuted this claim, and these witnesses addressed the couple’s fights and arguments, a characterization far from what the prosecution led the jury to believe in 1998.
Considering the evidence presented at the hearing, Judge J.D. Langley will forward the court’s findings to the Court of Criminal Appeals pending oral arguments.