Socialist Worker

The fight to save Rodney Reed from death row

The state of Texas plans to execute Rodney Reed despite overwhelming evidence of his innocence. His brother Rodrick Reed spoke to Annette Mackin about the fight to grant him clemency

Issue No. 2439

Rodneys mother Sandra with stands with one of Rodney’s brothers and a cousin in front of the Texas State Capitol Building

Rodney's mother Sandra stands with one of Rodney’s brothers and a cousin in front of the Texas State Capitol Building (Pic: Justice4RodneyReed)


An innocent man on death row faces execution in a month’s time.

Rodney Reed was convicted by an all-white jury in 1998 of the murder of Stacey Stites in Texas.

He was connected to the crime through semen evidence, despite no other physical evidence linking him to the killing.

Rodney Reed

Rodney Reed


Rodney has always maintained that he and Stacey were having an affair, which accounted for the presence of his DNA. But the state of Texas has now scheduled his execution for 5 March – and his family and supporters have upped their fight for clemency and a new trial.

They are asking for international solidarity to put pressure on Texas governor Greg Abbott. 

Rodney’s brother Rodrick Reed told Socialist Worker, “When you have people who reach out and offer support – it’s a very powerful thing.

“I find strength in that, it keeps me going. For people to fight his fight with him means a lot to me.”

At the time of her murder Stacey was engaged to police officer Jimmy Fennell Jnr. Fennell was initially the prime suspect in the crime. He was the last person to see Stacey alive in the early hours of 23 April 1996.

He said she left their shared apartment in Giddings, Texas, at 3am to drive to her job at a grocery store in the small town of BastropFennell said she left alone, taking his red Chevy pickup truck. Stacey never made it to the start of her shift at 3.30am.

Her body was found at 3pm on the same day on Bluebonnet Drive, a piece of desolate road between Giddings and Bastrop. She had been strangled with a belt.

Belt

The pickup truck was found in Bastrop High School parking lot. A piece of broken belt, later identified as the same which was used to kill Stacey, was found nearby.

Her mother Carol would later testify that Fennell had planned to drive Stacey to work that morning.

Despite this Fennell and Stacey’s apartment was never searched. And the truck that Stacey was driving was returned within days of the murder, before a full forensics analysis was completed. Fennell promptly sold it to a dealership.

Investigators said the case against Fennell collapsed because he was home at 6.45am when Stacey’s mother called to say she hadn’t shown up for work. They say it was impossible for him to walk the distance from where the truck was found back to Giddings in time.

But important key evidence has come to light since Rodney's trial for Stacey’s murder.

Fennell is currently serving a ten-year sentence for raping a woman while she was in his police custody in 2007.

No to Jim Crow Justice

No to Jim Crow Justice (Pic: Justice4RodneyReed)


And at special evidentiary hearing in 2006 a witness testified that while attending a police academy class with Fennell, she overheard him say how he would kill his girlfriend if he caught her cheating and that he would strangle her with a leather belt to avoid leaving fingerprints.

Also, two empty beer cans recovered near Stacey’s body revealed potential DNA matches to two cops—colleagues of Fennell’s. This was never disclosed to Rodney’s defense at his trial.

Yet in November last year judge Doug Shaver denied Rodney’s request to have various pieces of evidence relating to the crime tested. This included the pieces of belt which was used to starngle Stacey - which has never been tested.

Rodney’s family and supporters now want the state to not only spare his life but to ensure that all the DNA and evidence is examined again.

Letters

They are asking people to gather signatures or to write individual clemency letters to Governor Abbott.

Rodrick said that the support they have received, including from members of Stacey’s family, has helped them in their struggle.

“In the beginning it was real tough,” he said. “It seemed we were by ourselves. We had death threats, looks in the street. But as time went on and the truth came out it’s been a little easier.”

Rodney's supporters also took part in the demonstrations across the US following the police shootings of black people.

They held up signs which read, "No more racist executions--in the streets or in the death house!"

Roderick said, “Rodney is strongly committed to justice. He knows it is not just him being done to, there are more Rodney’s out there.

“We want to make people aware all around the world and keep in the papers what’s going on in Bastrop.”


Where next in the campaign - and what you can do to help

Write to governor Abbott and the parole board. Sample letters and details of where to send it to can be found here justice4rodneyreed.org/clemency-letter

Join nearly 15,000 people and sign an online petition supporting Rodney. Host a screenings of the documentary State vs. Reed.

Activists in Texas are planning a series of events aimed at governor Abbott and the parole board. This includes a large rally on February 21 outside Abbott's mansion in Austin, Texas. There will also be a National Day of Action on February 20, when there will be an international lobbying of Abbott and the parole board to demand justice for Rodney Reed.


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