Texas sets execution date while Innocence Project pleads

Rodney Reed

Credit: KVUE

Rodney Reed

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by JADE MINGUS

KVUE

Posted on July 15, 2014 at 10:40 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 15 at 1:10 PM

BASTROP, Texas -- In red and white stripes, Rodney Reed walked into the courtroom at the Bastrop County Sheriff's Office in handcuffs, deputies by his side. Family and friends filled several rows, as an attorney with the Innocence Project pleaded with the judge to hold off on setting an execution date.

"We think there are legitimate claims of innocence here," said Bryce Benjet with the Innocence Project.

Prosecutors argued Reed has had enough time to appeal since his 1998 conviction in the rape and murder of Stacy Stites.

"We've had 16 years of continuous litigation. I hardly think setting an execution date is premature," said special prosecutor Matthew Ottoway.

Visiting judge Doug Shaver agreed with prosecutors, setting Reed's execution date for Jan. 14, 2015.

Inside the courtroom, Reed sat expressionless, his mother and father in shock on the front row. Outside the courtroom, emotions ran high. Surrounded by signs calling for justice, Rodney Reed's brother and supporters continue a fight to free him with an execution date looming six months away.

"This is my brother, but it could be yours next. How would you feel," said Rodrick Reed.

Bastrop County prosecutors agreed to more DNA testing for hairs and a rape kit. Medical examiners found Reed's semen in Stites body, but he says the two had an affair. Attorneys denied requests to test a belt possibly used to strangle Stites, her ripped clothing and items from her vehicle.

"If Rodney Reed was tried today, every piece of evidence in his case would have been tested. We believe he should not be executed until we are certain we know what actually happened here," said Benjet.

Reed's attorney says testing could provide more information about Jimmy Fennell, Stites' fiance. Once a suspect in her death, the former police officer is serving ten years in prison, for assaulting a woman on the job in Georgetown.

"We keep on fighting, we push, we pray. That's what we do and rally and ask for support," said Rodrick Reed.

Reed's attorneys have filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court and filed a motion for more DNA testing.

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