FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Texas Railroad to Death Row

When 19-year-old Stacy Stites was found murdered on April 23, 1996, the small central Texas town of Bastrop was shaken to its core.

Now, almost a decade later, Bastrop is shaken again by evidence suggesting that the person convicted of her murder, Rodney Reed, is an innocent man railroaded to death row.

Reed finally got a new hearing, ordered by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, before a Bastrop County judge into allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, suppressed evidence and contrary eyewitness reports that have simmered away for years.

Reed’s family and supporters hope last month’s hearing will lead to a new trial and Rodney’s freedom. But they fear they won’t get justice from Judge Reva Townslee-Corbett–who is to rule on charges of flaws in a trial that her own father presided over.

During the hearing, Reed’s appellate defense team argued that crucial evidence which could have shown Rodney’s innocence and altered the course of the trial was withheld by prosecutors during the original 1998 trial.

One witness told the hearing that Jimmy Fennell, Stites’ fiancé and a local police officer, was seen arguing with Stites in the early-morning hours before she was found dead. Another testified that, while attending a police training session with Fennell, she heard him say that if he found out his girlfriend was cheating on him, he would strangle her with a belt, so as not to leave fingerprints–exactly how Stites was murdered.

Reed’s lawyers also reiterated other holes and inconsistencies in the case against Rodney:

* The only physical evidence linking Reed to the crime was a semen sample taken from Stites. But Reed has explained that he was having an affair with Stites–which is also a motive for Fennell to kill her.

* Photos taken at the medical examiner’s office show burns and injuries that weren’t in images from the crime scene itself.

* A May 13, 1998, Department of Public Service report states that fresh beer cans found at the crime scene contained DNA from Stacy Stites and police officers David Hall and Ed Salmela (the original investigator for the case).

* The truck apparently used to transport Stites’ body, which contained fingerprints from only Jimmy Fennell and Stacy Stites, was handed over to Fennell the day that it was discovered. Fennell sold the truck the next day

* In a polygraph test, Fennell failed the question: “Did you strangle Stacy Stites?”

Though these issues came out in the hearing, Rodney’s supporters were unhappy with the proceedings. They say that Judge Reva Townslee-Corbett, whose father presided at Rodney’s original trial, clearly favored the prosecution during the hearing and treated the defense team with distain.

For example, she allowed the prosecution to call as a witness an investigator who claimed to have learned that no other cadet in the training session with Fennell said they heard his comment about strangling a victim with a belt–a clear violation of courtroom procedure, say Reed’s lawyers.

“She’s guarding her father’s reputation,” said Cassandra Jones, a Bastrop resident. “It’s a conflict of interest.”

Sandra Reed, Rodney’s mother and a member of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, said she was “appalled” by Townslee-Corbett’s behavior, but nevertheless hopes “she’ll do the right thing.”

Townslee-Corbett is expected to make a ruling by this summer. But Rodney’s supporters say that even if she doesn’t rule in his favor, the critical pieces of evidence are now on the record for the Court of Criminal Appeals to review.

On March 25, the Campaign to End the Death Penalty organized a march to the Bastrop County Courthouse. Some 75 people took part, chanting “Let the new evidence show Rodney’s innocence.” That night, a documentary, State vs. Reed, which shows the many discrepancies in the case, was shown to around 100 people at the local Boys and Girls Club.

Rodney’s supporters now plan to take a petition calling for a new trial and signed by hundreds to the Court of Criminal Appeals. As Sandra Reed put it, “Whatever it takes, I’m going to do it.”

ROBERT McDONALD writes for the Socialist Worker.

 

 

 

More articles by:

January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Glenn Sacks
Teachers Strike Dispatch #8: New Independent Study Confirms LAUSD Has the Money to Meet UTLA’s Demands
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposable Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail