This past weekend, over a thousand protesters demonstrated near the Texas governor’s mansion demanding that the execution of Rodney Read be stopped and that Reed be freed. The large turnout should come as no surprise since Austin, the Berkeley of Texas, is home to the University of Texas. UT students will turn out en masse to demonstrate for just about any cause at the drop of a hat. Some professors have given students a higher grade for participating in social justice demonstrations.
Reed is scheduled to be executed on November 20 for the 1996 rape-murder in Bastrop of 19-year-old Stacey Stites. Reed has also been accused of sexually assaulting six other women.
The Innocence Project, which is representing Reed has stirred up a social media storm on behalf of the death row inmate. Celebrities, including Oprah, Kim Kardashian and Beyonce, have called for Gov. Greg Abbot to stop the pending execution. A bipartisan group of 42 Texas lawmakers, 16 senators and 26 representatives, have also urged Abbott to stop Reed’s execution.
The Innocence Project claims that Stites was murdered by her fiancé, Jimmy Fennell. It is relying largely on the testimony of a rather unreliable witness, Arthur Snow Jr., a former member of the Aryan Brotherhood, the notorious neo-Nazi prison gang. He claims that Fennell confessed to the murder of Stites during a conversation they had in a prison yard years ago. Snow filed an affidavit with the court in which he said:
“Jimmy said his fiancé had been sleeping around with a black man behind his back. Toward the end of the conversation Jimmy said confidently, ‘I had to kill my nigger-loving fiancé.’ My impression was that Jimmy felt safe, even proud, sharing this information with me because I was a member of the Aryan Brotherhood. I think Jimmy assumed that his confession would impress me and earn him credibility with the Aryan Brotherhood.”
Fennell received a 10-year prison sentence in 2008 for kidnapping and improper sexual activity with a person in custody while he was a cop in Georgetown, Texas.
Fennell, a Bastrop police officer at the time, was a suspect during the initial murder investigation. But Reed became the primary suspect after he had been arrested for kidnapping, beating and attempting to rape and kill another woman, 19-year-old Linda Schlueter, near the same route Stites usually took to work, the circumstances of the Schlueter case being similar to those of the Stites case. Reed’s DNA was found on Stites’ body.
The Innocence Project claims Fennell is the murderer, pointing out that Reed was convicted by an all-white jury, the murder weapon was never tested for DNA, that Fennell’s story at the time did not ring true, and that forensic experts have admitted to errors in their testimony, all of which has been reviewed during a number of appeals.
Dr. Michael Baden, a prominent pathologist, testified that Stites had not been raped and had been killed before midnight, a time that pointed to Fennell as the killer. Baden’s testimony is no longer credible because he has long been a pricey whore for defense attorneys. In each and every case he has testified for the defense, Baden has refuted the findings of the government’s pathologist.
Robert Phillips, Fennell’s attorney, said deceitful witnesses for Reed are suddenly coming out of the woodwork. “Each one of these stories is laughably lacking in credibility,” he said. “There’s no evidence that’s worthy of presenting even to a grand jury that Jimmy Fennell was somehow involved.”
Texas deputy assistant attorney general Lisa Tanner, who was the lead prosecutor in the Reed murder trial, says “A large amount of credible evidence, including irrefutable DNA evidence, the testimony of witnesses, and the pattern Rodney Reed followed in committing his other sexual assaults, show beyond a reasonable doubt that he raped and murdered Stacey Stites.” Turner also points out that more than 20 judges have reviewed the case over the past 20 years “and found no reversible error and no credible evidence that someone other than Mr. Reed might have been disposed toward committing this heinous crime.”
The Texas District & County Attorneys Association posted a tweet which said. “Not sure how Reed’s supporters have turned him into the most popular serial rapist since Michael Jackson. But perhaps that’s a good reminder why we don’t rely on social media campaigns to determine guilt/innocence or punishment.” After a social media shitstorm of criticism, the association deleted the tweet and issued an apology.
In my opinion, the Texas District & County Attorneys Association did not owe anyone an apology because the association was spot on. I suspect that most of those who cried foul were Michael Jackson fans rather than Reed supporters.
Six women, including Linda Schlueter, have accused Reed of sexually assaulting them. Schlueter, who survived Reed’s attempt to murder her, says “Rodney Reed is not innocent at all and all these people that think he’s innocent, I’m so sorry, they’re so blinded.”
Reed, the serial rapist, claims he and Stites carried on a consensual affair. That seems rather farfetched to me. During the 1980s and 1990s, I conducted numerous field trips for my students to the federal prison in Bastrop. During the 1990s, Bastrop was not the same as it is today. Now Bastrop is a suburb of Austin. When I took my students there, the small town was inhabited largely by rednecks, a situation hardly conducive to an affair between a white woman and a black man.
Will Gov. Abbot withstand the 42 Texas lawmakers who have called on him to stop Reeds execution? Will the Supreme Court, which is sure to get another last-minute appeal, stop the execution?
I do know this – none of the prosecutors of Reed want to see an innocent man put to death … and neither do I! My money is on Reed’s guilt. Oprah, Kim Kardashian, Beyonce, Arthur Snow Jr., Dr. Michael Baden and the Innocence Project have not convinced me that Reed might possibly be innocent. Send the bastard strait to Hell on November 20.
Bethany Johnsen says
You think black men and white women never have sex in redneck towns? You are an idiot.
Bill Henderson says
Howie – You are usually spot on. However, this time I’ve got to disagree with you. Better a guilty man go free than an innocent man be put to death. And nobody says this guy is going to go free. Commute the sentence to Life without Parole and we still protect society. And by the way, I think birth records will confirm that black men and white women in small towns did have sex and if she did, you can bet Fennell would have been real unhappy.
Howie Katz says
Bill, you are absolutely right. And unlike that idiot Bethany Johnsen who called me an idiot, you understand the meaning of ‘conducive’ which she obviously does not.
I never said a white woman in a small redneck town would not have sex with a black man. By using the term ‘conducive’, it means that such a dalliance is unlikely. I stand by my statement. It would be much more likely that a white man would have sex with a black woman than the other way around.
It has been reported that eight new witnesses have sprung out from under a rock one week before the scheduled execution to say they knew of the dalliance between Stites and Reed. The poor souls must have been trapped under that rock for 20 years.
Greg Degeyter says
If there was evidence to establish actual innocence then perhaps the punishment should be reconsidered. However, from what I can tell the only thing innocence project can establish is a belief based on their biased assessment of credibility.
Bill made a good point though. LWOP wasn’t law when the punishment phase was conducted. If an inmate isn’t an ongoing threat then perhaps we should consider adjusting capital punishment in favor of LWOP going forward. It brings a greater degree of certainty that both punishment and respect for life are being carried out in criminal sentencing.
By having a board, say a special committee within parole, assess punishment under current law for death or LWOP it takes political pressure off of the governor, and makes instances like what innocence project is spearheading here seem even more radical.