Rodney Reed was scheduled to be executed in the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites in Texas on November 20, 2019, until a stay of execution was issued in his case by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
His case was thrust into the spotlight following an outcry from celebrities including Kim Kardashian West, saying he is innocent in the death of the 19-year-old woman. The Innocence Project and its lawyers have taken Reed’s case, saying DNA found in Stites body was the result of a consensual relationship, and not a rape. His lawyers place suspicion on Stites’ fiance, Jimmy Fennell, who was a local police officer.
Reed’s case is being examined on ABC 20/20 in a new episode, “Death Row Interview,” which airs at 9 p.m. Eastern time Friday, December 11, 2020.
Here’s what you need to know:
Reed’s Hearing Ordered Through His Execution Stay Was Pushed to 2021 Due to COVID-19
UPDATE!: The official trailer for the NEW 2-hour @ABC2020 special re: the death of Stacey Stites & Rodney Reed’s legal case has been released! This is a must see. Be sure to tune in this Friday, December 11 at 9|8c. #FreeRodneyReed pic.twitter.com/kYfHj2gFnV
— Reed Justice Initiative (@BringRodneyHome) December 8, 2020
The hearing granted for Reed through his stay of execution was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. He will not have his hearing until 2021, according to The Innocence Project.
Texas prisons and jails have been hit hard by COVID-19, with higher rates of the virus than anywhere else in the United States, the Associated Press reported earlier this month. A report by the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas found that inmates and staff tested positive for the coronavirus at a 490% higher rate than the general population of Texas. In addition, nine inmates approved for parole died from COVID-19 before they were released.
Reed, like other Texas inmates, has been unable to have visitors due to mitigation efforts, according to The Innocence Project.
“I spend most of my time alone, which is hard but also helpful in these circumstances,” Reed told his attorneys November 15, 2020.
Kim Kardashian West Says She Was With Reed When His Stay of Execution Was Issued
Kardashian West, who has used her platform to advocate for Reed and others behind bars, said she was with him when he received the news that he received a temporary stay of execution. She described solidarity among those within the criminal justice system and a wave of hope that spread across the room when the news was announced.
Kardashian and other celebrities have campaigned for Reed. She pleaded with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Twitter in the days before Reed was scheduled to be executed.
“PLEASE @GovAbbott How can you execute a man when since his trial, substantial evidence that would exonerate Rodney Reed has come forward and even implicates the other person of interest,” she tweeted in October 2019. “I URGE YOU TO DO THE RIGHT THING.”
Following the announcement of the stay, she shared a photo on Instagram of Reed with his hand on a glass panel.
Today, I had the honor of meeting #RodneyReed in person and the privilege of sitting with him when he got the news that the highest court in Texas had issued a stay of execution and remanded the case back to the trial court for further consideration. Words cannot describe the relief and hope that swept over the room in that moment. That hope had been building over the last few weeks around Rodney’s case. We have seen Democrats and Republicans come together. We have seen grassroots activists and lawmakers link arms. We have heard people all around the globe speak up. And all because of a deep belief that every man or woman accused of a crime – especially one punishable by death – deserves the chance to have all available evidence considered.
So grateful for the commitment and passion of everyone who voiced their support, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles for their recommendation to issue a 120 day reprieve, and the courts for issuing a stay!
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