Rodney Reed: Death row inmate’s lawyers file new legal bid to halt execution scheduled in days

Samuel Osborne
Rodney Reed, pictured here in 2017, is facing execution on 20 November for a murder he says he didn't commit: AP

Lawyers for a man scheduled to be executed next week have filed a new legal bid to halt his death sentence.

Rodney Reed was convicted of raping and strangling 19-year-old Stacy Stites in 1996 while she was on her way to work at a supermarket in Bastrop, around 30 miles southeast of the Texan city of Austin.

The 51-year-old has long maintained that the white teenager was killed by her fiance, former police officer Jimmy Fennell, who was angry that she was having an affair with himself, a black man.

His lawyers have now claimed in a new legal filing that seven new witnesses would help prove his innocence. They hope to void the execution writ which was signed in July.

Protesters have staged rallies outside the Bastrop County district attorney’s office and heard from speakers including members of the inmate’s family.

Reed's supporters held their biggest protest yet outside Texas governor Greg Abbott's mansion last week.

Celebrities including Beyonce, Kim Kardashian and Oprah Winfrey have all called on the Republican to release Reed and around 3 million people have signed a petition to grant clemency to him.

Kristina Roth, Amnesty International USA’s senior criminal justice programmes officer, said: “It is deeply disturbing that a consensual intimate relationship between Rodney Reed, a black man, and Stacey Stites, a white woman, was conflated with an act of violence. Killing a person creates a murderer out of the executioner, is not justice for Stacey Stites, and deprives Rodney Reed of dignity and humanity.”

She added that the death penalty "is applied disproportionally against people of colour and Rodney Reed’s case is a glaring example."

Reed’s lawyers have presented affidavits supporting his claims. One from a former prison inmate claims Mr Fennell bragged about killing Stites and referred to Reed by a racial slur.

His lawyers say other recent affidavits also corroborate the relationship between Stites and Reed.

Mr Fennell’s attorney has said his client did not kill Stites and prosecutors maintain they believe Reed is guilty.

Texas remains the death penalty capital of the US even as executions nationwide hover at historic lows.

Last year, about half of the 25 executions nationwide took place in Texas, which has put eight people to death this year.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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