Texas inmate Rodney Reed, a black man who has long insisted he was innocent of the murder of a young white grocery store clerk 25 years ago, does not deserve a new trial, a judge said Monday, restoring his future. of the state's highest criminal court.
The 50-page decision by District Court Judge JD Langley, following a two-week hearing in the summer, paves the way for the Texas Court of Appeal to similarly reject Reed's appeal, even though it sounds like a court. contrary to the judge's recommendation.
Langley wrote that Reed, 53, "did not testify with clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable judge could convict him of murder."
Convicted prisoner Rodney Reed, whose case has received worldwide attention, speaks
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There is no date on the appellate court.
Jane Pucher, one of Reed's lawyers, said she believed the new judge deserved to hear "convincing evidence that Rodney Reed was innocent."
"We hope that the Criminal Court will see to it that a new case is heard," Pucher, senior staff lawyer at the Innocence Project, said in a statement.
Reed's case was sparked by celebrities, including reality television star Kim Kardashian West, media presenter Oprah Winfrey and singer Rihanna, and a group of Texas lawmakers weeks before her November 2019 planned assassination.
Reed was found guilty by a white judge in the 1996 Stites rape and murder case, a grocery store employee in the Texas suburb of Bastrop, east of Austin.
In 1998, prosecutors in the case set out how Reed met the Stites on the street as he was driving to work. After waiting for her, they allegedly raped her and strangled her. Stites had weeks before marrying a police officer named Jimmy Fennell.
Sperm was found inside Stites, and police compared the genes to Reed's, who was arrested a year later. Earlier Reed's sperm had been collected as part of an investigation unrelated to sexual harassment.
Reed initially denied to investigators that he knew Stites. But he later explained to them why they had found his DNA: He said that he and Stites had a secret and consensual sexual relationship, which was unacceptable because he was Black and Stites was white.
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He said they met at a zoo where they were playing pool, they last had sex a few days before his death. Reed's sperm are the only visible evidence linking Stites to the scene.
Reed's lawyers, in calling for a new trial, identified new witnesses to the court's reviewed evidence. That included people who were skeptical of Reed's sentencing and, in some cases, included Fennell, the victim's fiancée.
New witnesses include Arthur Snow Jr. who Fennell told him during a conversation in the prison yard: "I had to kill my fiancée (N-word) -love." Fennell was arrested at the time on charges of kidnapping and sexual assault, according to the Associated Press. New intelligence from the many scientists who made the decision suggested that Stites may have died at times when Fennell testified that he was with her.
At the witness stand, the state brought in specialist memory witnesses to challenge other witness accounts more than two decades later, with medical experts claiming that Stites' body marks showed he was sexually abused.
"The truth is, Your Excellency, Rodney Reed kidnapped, brutally raped and killed Stacey Stites," Assistant Attorney General Travis Bragg said at closing prosecutors' conferences last month.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton praised the judge's decision and said Stites' death "should not be ridiculed by the public opinion tribunal."
"The State's testimony was considered credible, when it ruled that Reed's doctrine of self-defense against consensus was unreliable," Paxton said in a statement Tuesday.