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The Fight to Free Rodney Reed is Far from Over


Millions of people flocked to sign the "Free Rodney Reed" petition after new evidence supported Reed's innocence, who was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Nov. 20, according to Essence.

On Nov. 15, they finally listened. 

The Court of Criminal Appeals in Texas suspended his execution, removed his death date and ordered the court to consider the new evidence that recently came to light, according to the New York Times. 

"At every turn we have asked for a hearing at which we can present the evidence, in full, of Rodney Reed's innocence," Bryce Benjet, one of Reed's lawyers, said. "So it is extremely rewarding that we can finally have a chance to fully present his case in court, so it can be determined that he did not commit this crime." 

Though Reed has been granted a stay of execution, he will remain in jail until a court rules he is free. 

In 1998, Reed was convicted by an all-white jury for the rape and murder of Stacey Stites, a white woman whose body was found dumped on the side of a road in a small town near Austin, TX. Reed has spent the past 21 years on Texas death row and has maintained his innocence, according to Free Rodney Reed. 

With his impending death date, legislators, activists, celebrities and millions of supporters were fighting to get Governor Greg Abbot to grant Reed "a reprieve until the new developments in his case are fully resolved," according to a letter from 26 bipartisan Texas State Legislators signed on Nov. 5. 

Another bipartisan coalition of 16 Texas State Senators also wrote to Governor Abbot asking him to grant Reed clemency

This sudden public outcry was largely escalated by the release of new evidence. At the time of her murder, Stites was engaged to local police officer Jimmy Fennel and allegedly having a consensual affair with Reed. Initially, Fennel was the investigation's primary suspect until semen from Stites' body matched Reed, according to the Innocence Project

On Oct. 29, Arthur Snow, the prison mate of Jimmy Fennel (who was later convicted for kidnapping and sexual assault), released a sworn affidavit. Snow, a former member of the Aryan Brotherhood, details conversations where Fennel expressed that he "had to kill [his] n*****-loving fiancé" to obtain good standing with the Aryan Brotherhood. He also details that Fennel was convicted of raping a woman in his custody. 

"I realized that Rodney Reed was sitting in prison for a murder that Jimmy Fennel had confessed to me that he had committed," Snow said in the affidavit. "I had planned to come forward back then, but never did. At the time, I still had a heavy gang-mentality and decided that it was none of my business. On top of it all, I was worried that even though Jimmy was a cop, I would be labeled a snitch." 

The Innocence Project claimed discrepancies in other parts of the case as well. Three forensic experts have admitted to errors in their original testimonies, the timeline for Reed killing Stites has since been deemed implausible, Fennel gave inconsistent accounts of where he was that night and DNA tests of the murder weapon have not been conducted. 

In retaliation, hundreds protested in front of the Austin Capitol Building on Nov. 2 and in the past couple of weeks, the Free Rodney Reed petition has garnered almost three million signatures.

Celebrities like Kim Kardashian-West, Dr. Phil, Rihanna, Yara Shahidi and several others all used social media to spread awareness and the petition around. Dr. Phil also aired a two-part special on Reed, where Kardashian-West expressed offers of legal help. 

Hello, World!

Free Rodney Reed asked that people sign the petition, call Governor Abbot and state legislators, send clemency letters to DA Brian Goertz and write reprieve requests to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

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