Rodney Reed sits on death row in a Texas prison while awaiting his execution. His execution is slated for November 20. In 1996, a jury convicted Reed of rape and murder of Stacy Stites, a woman whom he claims he had a consensual relationship. Doubts about his guilt have surfaced with many celebrities joining in his cause, including Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, Dr. Phil and others.
The victim was the fiancé of former police officer, Jimmy Fennel. Fennel was suspected of the murder after he failed 2 police administered lie detector tests. But DNA evidence helped to convict Reed whom he admits to having a consensual affair with Fennel’s fiancé, the victim. Since Reed’s conviction Fennel confessed in 2010 while in jail to inmate Arthur Snow; a cousin agreed that Stites and Reed were romantically involved; and, an insurance agent also supported the theory that Fennell killed Stites.
Reed’s attorneys, The Innocence Project, filed a petition for clemency to the Board of Pardons and Parole. The petition requests that the Board recommend that Texas Governor Abbott grant a commutation of Reed’s death sentence due to new evidence, including the sworn statement by Snow. A group of Texas law enforcement officers also filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court, in support of Reed’s innocence. Clemency is granted by governors in a state case. The clemency request, if granted, would halt the execution and allow for a process to investigate the newly discovered evidence and halt the execution. Interesting enough, Fennell, the suspected killer, later pleaded guilty to abducting and raping a woman while on duty as a police officer.
Reed’s case has all the twists of a southern town and racism. Like many Blacks before him, an all white jury convicted Reed of raping and killing a white woman. Despite the high- profile status of Reed’s case, Texas, Florida and Virginia are the largest in terms of death penalty cases.
For every 9 persons on death row, there are estimates of one person wrongfully convicted. There are persons who have awaited execution on death row and then pardoned due to new evidence. Kirk Bloodsworth was convicted in 1985 of murder and sentenced to death in Maryland. Bloodsworth was later the first death row inmate exonerated by DNA evidence. He escaped death and received a full pardon in 1993. Since 1973, 142 persons have been exonerated and freed from death row.
Others are not as fortunate as Bloodsworth. Since 1976, at least 1300 persons have been put to death. Many persons claim their innocence up to the time of their death. Troy Davis was convicted in 1989 of killing a police officer in Georgia and sentenced to death. He also had high profile celebrity support with over 1 million signatures to a petition and support from the Pope. 7 of the 9 witnesses in Davis’ case recanted their testimony. Davis maintained his innocence until his execution in 2011—despite newly discovered evidence like in Reed’s case.
It goes without saying that there have been innocent persons put to death in error. There are victims’ family members who support abolishing the death penalty. It does not serve as a deterrent to crime. No one thinks about the death penalty before committing a heinous crime.
The real reason to end the death penalty in the U.S. is the likelihood for error of putting an innocent man or woman to death.
Rodney Reed has an uphill battle. The criminal justice system must change to support life in prison without parole and abolish the death penalty. The system cannot correct an error after erroneously taking someone’s life.
Here’s the link to my interview on Cheddar TV on freeing Rodney Reed: