BASTROP, Texas - Following four days of testimony from nearly a dozen witnesses, Rodney Reed’s hearing wrapped Friday. Reed’s family is optimistic about his chances for a new trial.
Reed is on death row in connection to the 1996 murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites. His execution was stayed in February 2015.
“I just believe Judge Shaver will do the right thing knowing the truth,” said Sandra Reed, Rodney Reed’s mother.
Rodney Reed and his family have maintained his innocence since his 1998 conviction. In May of 2017, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered this past week’s hearing based on new evidence presented by Reed’s defense. The defense claims that Stites’ killer was actually her fiancé, Jimmy Fennell.
A CNN interview with Curtis Davis, Fennell’s best friend and then-fellow Giddings police officer, contradicts Fennell’s testimony regarding his whereabouts on April 22, 1996, the night before Stites’ body was discovered.
On Wednesday, Rodney Reed’s attorneys called on Dr. Michael Baden, a renowned medical examiner, to testify.
Baden testified that after reviewing the original autopsy, lab reports and crime scene photos, he determined Stites was murdered prior to 3 a.m.
“In my opinion, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, she was dead before midnight of the day, the next day that she was found,” Baden said.
Rodney Reeds’ attorney, Bryce Benjet, considers Baden’s testimony a game-changer.
“It makes it scientifically and medically impossible for Rodney Reed to have committed this crime,” he said.
The state contends Rodney Reed abducted, raped and strangled Stites while she was on her way to work. During closing arguments, the state argued the CNN interview doesn’t count because it’s based on an unsworn statement made 20 years after the murder.
Meanwhile, Reed’s defense, referencing Baden’s testimony, said the state made its case without all of the evidence.
“We are confident that now all evidence came in, the courts will understand the wrong person was convicted of this crime,” Benjet said.
It’s now up to the judge to make a recommendation to the Texas Court of Appeals, which will decide if Rodney Reed will be granted a new trial.
“We are gonna stand on faith like we have from day one. And even if, God forbid, we don’t get this, we will not lay down, we will not surrender, we will not give up,” said Rodrick Reed, Rodney Reed’s brother.