An appeal to save Rodney Reed

February 2, 2015

Rodney Reed, an innocent man on Texas death row, faces an execution date of March 5. Reed, who is African American, was convicted and sentenced to death by an all-white jury for the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites. His case is a troubling mixture of prosecutorial misconduct, police corruption, inadequate legal defense and institutional racism. Evidence of his innocence is overwhelming, and the need for a new trial is indisputable.

Rodney's family and supporters are organizing a campaign to win clemency from newly elected Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. Here, we publish a sample clemency letter that can be used to collect signatures at tablings and other events, or as a basis for your own individual letter. Please print it out, collect signatures and send letters to Gov. Greg Abbott (Office of the Governor, P.O. Box 12428, Austin, TX 78711-2428) and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (P.O. Box 13401, Austin, TX 78711-3401). Please make copies of all letters, along with signatures, and mail them to the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, 1311 E. 13th St., Austin, TX 78702.

Dear Governor Abbott and members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles:

I am writing to ask that you grant clemency to Texas death row prisoner Rodney Reed, who is scheduled to be killed on March 5, 2015.

Rodney Reed was convicted of the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites in Bastrop, Texas. His conviction was based on semen DNA evidence. However, no other physical evidence linked him to the murder. Rodney has maintained that he and Stacey were having an affair, which accounted for the presence of his DNA.

During the trial, important evidence of Rodney's innocence was not presented, through a combination of inadequate representation and prosecutorial misconduct. This included hidden eyewitness testimony, misleading expert witness testimony, and the failure of the defense to call either an alibi witness or the multiple witnesses who could have testified to the affair between Stacey and Rodney.

Over the years, evidence has been uncovered that points to Stacey's then-fiancée and former Giddings police officer Jimmy Fennell, Jr. as the perpetrator of this crime. Fennell failed two polygraph tests on the question of whether he had strangled Stacey. Witness testimony and DNA evidence collected at the site where Stacey was found point to the involvement of Fennell's known associates. Fennell is currently in prison for sexually assaulting a woman in his custody while policing in Georgetown, TX.

Death penalty opponents demand justice for Rodney Reed, on death row in Texas
Death penalty opponents demand justice for Rodney Reed, on death row in Texas

Rodney is pursuing new DNA testing on several crucial pieces of evidence--including the belt that Stacey was strangled with--which has never been tested for DNA. These tests could very well prove Rodney's innocence. Rodney is also pursuing a new state appeal based on changed medical testimony about the DNA that convicted him, that could help to prove his innocence.

New laws passed in the last two legislative sessions concerning DNA testing in Texas speak to the importance of both pre- and post-conviction testing. In 2013, then-Attorney General and now-Governor Abbott supported a bill for pre-conviction DNA testing, saying, "Texans may disagree about the death penalty, but one thing all Texans can and should agree upon is that no innocent person should be executed in Texas." I am asking that you stand by those words and that you stop the execution of an innocent man. I am asking that you ensure that all DNA testing and a thorough examination of all the evidence in Rodney's case is undertaken by the state.

What you can do

Rodney Reed's family and supporters are asking everyone who cares about justice to step up their efforts for Rodney now. You can:

-- Collect clemency letters and signatures. Click here to download a sample clemency letter and find instructions on how to use it. You can find the online petition for Rodney at Download a paper petition here. The Campaign to End the Death Penalty also has an informational fact sheet on Rodney's case. Think about how you can use these materials at your school, church or community event.

-- Stay updated about Rodney's case through social media. Follow the Justice for Rodney Reed campaign on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram. Share your own solidarity photo with us and tag it #Justice4Rodney

-- Host a screening of the documentary State vs. Reed. This is an incredible resource for showing the facts of the case. You can find it online at YouTube. A new shorter video about the case called Framed also updates the case with new witnesses interviews.

For more action items and information visit the Free Rodney Reed website and the Campaign to End the Death Penalty website.

I am asking that you spare the life of Rodney Reed.

Further Reading

From the archives