BASTROP, Texas — On the second day of his hearing, death row inmate Rodney Reed and his attorneys continued their fight to prove Reed's innocence.
In 1998, Reed was convicted of murdering of Stacey Stites, a 19-year-old Bastrop woman.
The defense is trying to illustrate that Stites' fiancé, Jimmy Fennell Jr., is responsible for her death.
Stites' body was discovered on the afternoon of April 23, 1996 along a rural road in Bastrop, and the truck she was driving, which belonged to Fennell, was found at Bastrop High School.
The first witness to take the stand Wednesday was Dr. Michael Baden, a longtime forensic pathologist and medical examiner who investigated the deaths of JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Baden's testimony cast a shadow of doubt on the original sequence of events presented in Reed's trial.
The state's theory holds that Reed, while on foot, abducted Stites on her way to work at 3 a.m., sexually assaulted and strangled her to death, left her body on the side of the road and drove the truck to Bastrop High School.
But Baden, who reviewed all of the original crime scene photos, videos, autopsy and lab reports, testified that Stites died before midnight on April 22, which contradicts the initial report that Stites was murdered in the early morning hours of April 23.
According to Baden, the lividity of Stites' body seen in the crime scene photographs reveals that she was lying dead face-down somewhere for at least four to five hours before being placed in the truck.
He also examined photos from inside the truck, showing a dark-colored post-mortem fluid on the passenger seat of the truck, and explained that a body only produces that about four hours after death, which means Stites was dead when she was inside Fennell's truck.
Baden stated that it was "not at all possible" for Stites to have died in the manner which the state portrayed, which contradicts prosecutors' earlier belief that Stites was killed at the crime scene by Reed.
Reed was convicted based on the DNA evidence that was recovered from Stites' body, but Baden testified that the semen discovered was a result of a faulty autopsy conducted at the crime scene. Baden countered the argument that Stites had sex right before her death by affirming that sperm can live inside a dead body for several days, sometimes weeks.
He also stated Stites was not sexually assaulted as originally reported by the medical examiner at the time, Dr. Ricardo Bayardo.
Baden said the "anal tearing" that Bayardo recorded was actually caused by a natural process involving post-mortem dilation, not sexual assault.
The defense also asked Baden to read the legal document submitted by Bayardo in 2012.
In that declaration, Bayardo states that if the prosecuting attorneys at the time of trial had advised him that they intended to present testimony that sperm cannot remain in the vaginal cavity for more than 24 hours, he would advise them that neither the testimony nor their argument was medically or scientifically supported.
The significance of Bayardo's statement calls the state's case against Reed into question.
During trial, the state argued that the semen found in her vaginal cavity was a sign of sexual assault and was not consensual; Bayardo agreed, but later contradicted his initial testimony in the 2012 declaration.
Prosecutors also said that the sex between Reed and Stites happened around 3 a.m. on April 23, 1996.
Bayardo also states that it appeared Stites suffer from anal sexual assault, one that was likely committed by a "rod-like instrument, such as a police baton."
Fennell was a Giddings police officer at the time of Stites' murder.
According to Fennell, Stites left their apartment in Giddings in his pickup to work for a 3:30 a.m. shift at the Bastrop HEB.
Reed's defense argues that Fennell, who is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for raping a woman in his custody, was inconsistent about his whereabouts on the night before Stites was killed.
Reed's attorney, Bryce Benjet, cited a 2016 CNN interview featuring Curtis Davis, who was a fellow cop and Fennell's best friend, in which Davis says Fennell told him he'd been out drinking the night before. Fennell originally told investigators he was home by 8 p.m. before Stites went to bed.
Lydia Clay-Jackson, Reed's trial lawyer from 1998, was next to take the witness stand.
Clay-Jackson testified that she felt extremely rushed and was only given a few weeks to prepare her case for the trial, which occurred March 1998.
She said she requested more time from the judge, but that request was denied.
Clay-Jackson also stated that the jury conveyed their sympathy towards Fennell for having lost his fiancée, so she believed a harsh interrogation of Fennell would be counterproductive.
She said if she had the opportunity to interrogate him "with the gloves off," she would have highlighted his motive for killing Stites, who was having an affair with Reed.
The hearing will resume Thursday at 9 a.m.
After the hearing concludes, Judge Doug Shaver will make a recommendation to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on whether he believes there is enough evidence for a new trial.
The CCA will then decide whether to uphold Reed's conviction, grant him a new trial or send it back to the lower courts to get more information.
Follow moment-by-moment updates from reporter Alex Stockwell over on her Twitter, @AlexRStockwell.