HOUSTON — The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted Friday to recommend that Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas delay the execution of Rodney Reed by 120 days. The case has received intense attention in recent weeks as celebrities and lawmakers have called on the governor to intervene after new evidence surfaced.
The execution of Mr. Reed, 51, is scheduled for Wednesday. He was convicted of the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites in Bastrop, Tex.
The governor can now either accept or reject the unanimous recommendation of the seven-member parole board. A spokesman for Mr. Abbott did not respond to requests for comment.
“I have tears streaming down my cheeks,” said Andrew MacRae, one of Mr. Reed’s lawyers. “I’m overwhelmed, but not yet ecstatic, because we have to wait for the governor to act. But assuming he approves this, I’m going to call Rodney’s mom, and that will be ecstatic.”
A bipartisan group of Texas lawmakers including Senator Ted Cruz, along with celebrities including Rihanna, Kim Kardashian West and Meek Mill, have called on Mr. Abbott to grant a stay or a new trial. Texas executes far more people than any other state, including eight so far this year.
Ms. Stites, who was 19, was strangled, and her body was dumped alongside a rural road. Prosecutors said she had also been raped, and Mr. Reed was arrested based mostly on DNA tests. He said he and Ms. Stites had been having an affair in secret, which would explain his DNA being recovered from her body. His lawyers say witnesses have since corroborated the existence of the affair.
Mr. Reed’s lawyers have argued previously that the state’s forensic investigators made critical errors regarding the timeline of the killing, which some investigators later admitted in affidavits. The lawyers have also pushed for the murder weapon — Ms. Stites’s belt — to be tested for DNA evidence, which has yet to happen.
Most recently, at least three people have come forward with new testimony regarding Ms. Stites’s fiancé, Jimmy Fennell. Mr. Fennell is a former police officer who was released from prison in 2018; he pleaded guilty in 2008 to kidnapping a woman he had encountered while on duty. The woman said he had also raped her.
Arthur J. Snow Jr., who served time in prison with Mr. Fennell, said last month in a sworn affidavit that he heard Mr. Fennell confess to the murder of Ms. Stites. Mr. Snow, a former member of a white-only prison gang called the Aryan Brotherhood, said Mr. Fennell, who is white, had bragged about killing his fiancée because she had cheated on him with a black man. Mr. Reed is black.
Mr. Snow said he believed that Mr. Fennell had bragged about killing Ms. Stites to try to impress him and other members of the Aryan Brotherhood, whom Mr. Fennell had sought out for protection. Mr. Snow said he came forward after reading about the Reed case in a newspaper.
Other witnesses have also described statements by Mr. Fennell that Mr. Reed’s lawyers say warrant further investigation. A former insurance sales representative said he had heard Mr. Fennell say he would kill Ms. Stites if he caught her “messing around.” Charles W. Fletcher, a former friend of the couple, said Mr. Fennell had complained that Ms. Stites was cheating on him. And Jim Clampit, a former sheriff’s deputy, said that at Ms. Stites’s funeral, Mr. Fennell looked at her body and said, “You got what you deserved.”
Mr. Fennell’s lawyer, Robert M. Phillips, said that Mr. Fennell denies killing Ms. Stites, and that Mr. Reed’s lawyers were merely recycling claims that were made at trial. It was inconceivable, he said, that the people now coming forward would have stayed silent for so long if their accounts were true.
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