By Morgan Phillips
Published November 13, 2019
A second Texas GOP lawmaker has called on Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to postpone the execution of inmate Rodney Reed.
Rep. Michael McCaul joined Sen. Ted Cruz in sending a letter to the governor Wednesday asking him to delay Reed’s execution for the 1996 rape and murder of Stacey Stites until new evidence can be reviewed. Reed’s DNA was found on Stites’ body, but Reed, 51, claimed the two were having a consensual affair.
Reed was arrested nearly a year after Stites’ death and was sentenced to death in 1998. His lawyers have said new evidence points to the woman’s fiance, Jimmy Fennell, who was a suspect in the original investigation, according to CBS Austin.
“As a member of Congress representing the Bastrop community where this crime took place, I have heard from many of my constituents about evidentiary gaps in Mr. Reed’s case,” McCaul said in the letter. “In reviewing the case, and the press reporting around these evidentiary gaps, new witness statements and forensic evidence could potentially change the outcome of the case.”
“A death sentence is final, and given the doubt surrounding his innocence at this time, I believe our state cannot execute Mr. Reed in good conscience without fully reviewing all evidence,” he added.
Cruz said on Monday that there have been “meaningful and serious questions raised, calling into question his guilt or his innocence.”
“If there's a real question of innocence, the system needs to stop and look at the evidence, because an innocent man should be set free," Cruz said.
Reed's case has also garnered the attention of celebrities, with Kim Kardashian actively advocating on his behalf. Rihanna, T.I. and Meek Mill also weighed in.
Fennell was the first person of interest in the case, but the sperm and saliva found on Stites did not match his. Rather, they matched that of Reed, meaning he had to have been with Stites less than 24 hours before her death, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors painted Reed as having a violent past with women. They pointed to five accusations of sexual assault, but Reed was never convicted and was only prosecuted in one case.
Reed originally denied knowing Stites but later admitted to having a consensual affair with her. Originally there was not much evidence of the affair, but four witnesses have since come forward to corroborate Reed’s claims.
Numerous sworn affidavits have also come to light pointing to Fennell, according to Texas Monthly.
A life insurance salesperson provided a sworn affidavit in which he recalled meeting with Stites and Fennell.
Stites asked why she would need life insurance at such a young age and Fennell allegedly responded, “If I ever catch you messing around on me, I will kill you and no one will ever know it was me that killed you.”
Texas leads the nation in executions, and Reed is one of 215 inmates in the state currently on death row. Abbott could delay the execution for up to 30 days, or nix it altogether. During Abbott's five-year tenure, he has stopped one execution out of 47, changing it to a life sentence in prison.