HomeJudge: No new trial for Texas death row inmate Rodney Reed

Judge: No new trial for Texas death row inmate Rodney Reed

HOUSTON (AFP) – A judge has recommended against a new trial of Texas death row inmate Rodney Reed, whose supporters point to…

HOUSTON (Associated Press) – A judge has recommended against a new trial of Texas death row inmate Rodney Reed, whose supporters point to evidence they say raises serious doubts about his conviction.

Reid was convicted for the 1996 murder of 19-year-old Stacey States. Prosecutors say Reid raped and strangled States as she made her way to work in a supermarket in Bastrop, a rural area about 30 miles (50 kilometers) southeast of Austin.

Reed, 53, has always maintained that her fiancé, former police officer Jimmy Fennell, was the real killer. Reed says Fennell was angry because Stites, who was white, had an affair with Reed, who is black. Fennell, who served a sentence for sexual assault and was released from prison in 2018, denied killing Stites.

State District Judge J.D. Langley was appointed to review the case after the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals halted his execution in November 2019.

In a 50-page ruling, Langley wrote that the three claims Reed makes—the prosecutors suppressed the evidence, and Fennell falsely testified that he didn’t kill Stites and an actually innocent Red—must be denied.

“Reid has not demonstrated with clear and convincing evidence that he is indeed innocent,” Langley wrote in his ruling on Sunday.

Langley’s findings come after a two-week evidentiary hearing in July, during which witnesses and experts testified on behalf of Reid, whose supporters include lawmakers and celebrities. Some witnesses testified that Reed and Stites had a consensual relationship and that they saw the two together. Several forensic experts testified that Stets died hours earlier than prosecutors had given him.

Prosecutors say his allegations of an affair with Stets were not substantiated at trial, and Fennell was acquitted as a suspect with a history of other sexual assaults.

Langley’s recommendation now goes to the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals, which will make the final decision on whether Reid will get a new trial. It was not immediately known when the appeals court would issue its decision.

“If a new jury heard the overwhelming evidence of Rodney Reed’s innocence, they would have reasonable doubts,” said Jane Bucher, a lawyer with the Innocence Project representing Reid. Mr. Reid, who was convicted by a white jury, spent 23 years on death row for a crime he did not commit.

The Texas Attorney General’s office, which discussed the case on behalf of the state at its hearing in July, did not immediately send an email seeking comment on Monday.

In his ruling, Langley criticized 17 witnesses who testified on Reed’s behalf at that hearing that they either saw Reed and the States interact with each other or saw Fennell behaving suspiciously after Stetts’ death, saying many had “waited decades” to bring up “their memories.”

Langley also sided with prosecutors who backed up the claims from Reade’s trial that Stets died within two hours, which would not have allowed Fennell to commit the murder. Defense experts indicated in July that Stets may have died at the times Fennell testified that he was with her.

Reed’s lawyers also argued that Reed’s sperm that was found on Stites’ body was not evidence of sexual assault as prosecutors argued at the trial but was from consensual sex between the two the day before. In his ruling, Langley said it gave more credibility to the prosecution experts from the July hearing who supported the conclusion that Stites could have been sexually assaulted.

Langley also said he found Fennell, who testified at the July hearing, as a “reliable” witness. Fennell denied killing Stets and said he never yelled at her or referred to her in any derogatory manner.

Reid’s efforts to stop his execution in 2019 received support from celebrities such as Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian and Oprah Winfrey. Lawmakers from both parties have also called on officials to take another look at the issue.

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Follow Juan A Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

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