Stacey Stites

Texas claims it’s ‘too late’ for DNA testing which could get inmate off death row

October 10, 2022

Featured Image Credit: AP/Shutterstock/Paul Weber

The state of Texas is fighting to dismiss a civil rights suit arguing for DNA testing which could prove the innocence of a death row inmate.

Rodney Reed was sentenced to death in 1998 for the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites in Bastrop, Texas, and remains on death row as he continues to maintain his innocence.

Stites was just 19 at the the time of her death, and was found dead along a country road. She had been engaged to a man named Jimmy Fennell, a police officer in the neighbouring town, and had allegedly introduced Reed to her co-worker, Suzen Hugan, as a friend.

Hugan told The Intercept Stites was ‘flirty’ with Reed, saying “it seemed like more than a friendship,” however Texas claims Reed was actually a stranger to Stites. 

After Stites was killed, sperm evidence recovered from her body was matched to Reed. An investigation by law enforcement uncovered no evidence that the pair knew each other, though Reed claims he and Stites were having an affair and that the DNA was from a consensual encounter.

Meanwhile, Fennell has been accused by some as having known about the alleged affair. He has denied the claims.

Over his years on death row, Reed has argued for the testing of crime scene evidence, including the alleged murder weapon, however reluctance on post-conviction DNA testing in the state has made things tough for the inmate.

In 2019, Reed took the case to federal court with the argument that Texas violated his due process rights by denying his bid for forensic testing, but the state is trying to get the suit dismissed with the argument that Reed waited too long to file his federal claim.

Texas is using the statute of limitations to argue its side, claiming Reed had a two-year window to file his federal claim after he was first denied DNA testing in 2014.

However, Reed has argued that filing earlier would have meant filing before the Court of Criminal Appeals had considered his case, meaning he would not have a final decision in the matter on which to base his suit.

It wasn’t until 2017 that the CCA issued its final ruling, and Reed’s suit was filed less than two years later.

Texas, meanwhile, argues Reed should have brought the case in the two years after 2014 because there is ‘no provision of Texas law’ that required him to appeal to the CCA.

As the battle continues, the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the state, meaning the Supreme Court is now set to hear the case on 11 October.

Woman Raped by Texas Cop Believes Wrong Man on Death Row

april 10, 2014



Summary: The woman raped by convicted ex-Georgetown, Texas police officer Jimmy Fennell in October 2007 reveals the full details of the heinous assault, the attempted official cover-up, and her overwhelming fear of his upcoming release from prison in September 2018. Based on the calculating and vicious assault and restraining methods that were used on her that night, this sexual assault survivor believes “100% positive” that Jimmy Fennell was the real killer of Stacey Stites, his former fiancé, and most likely raped others before her — a fact which has been confirmed by the Texas Rangers following their own investigation. An independent journalist working for Concerned Citizens for Texas Justice recorded this unedited, 22-minute audio interview on April 4, 2014.

Previous Case History: Jimmy Fennell Jr., as many Central Texans know, was the main witness that sent Rodney Rodell Reed to Death Row back in 1998 for the murder of Stacey Stites. Despite mountains of evidence pointing towards Fennell’s guilt (fingerprints, hair, motive, opportunity, 2 failed polygraph examinations, documented history of aggression, racism and stalking) his fellow officers refused to arrest him, and the powerful Texas Attorney General’s Office Special Prosecutor’s Office, led by Lisa Tanner, overwhelmed Reed’s meager and underprepared public defenders during a kangaroo court trial based upon “very few” spermatozoa on the victim that were matched to Reed. An open, four month long and well-known interracial relationship between Stacey and Rodney — including a sexual encounter the very night before the murder — was not enough to convince the all white jury that Reed’s sperm could have gotten on the victim in any other way besides a rape that led to murder. However, multiple medical experts, including the very same coroner who erroneously concluded the death to be associated with sexual assault, now refute the connection between the presence of Reed’s “few spermatozoa” and the violent act of suffocation/strangulation that led to Stites’ death. They were, and always have been, the result of separate events that occurred at different times — almost certainly over a day a part.

Concerned Citizens For Texas Justice will be releasing a video documentary shortly that will explain how this violent criminal actually killed Stacey Stites and how fellow police officers helped him cover his tracks in a (successful) attempt to pin it on Rodney Reed as well as additional information on the major prosecutorial and official misconduct, witness and evidence tampering, and the travesty of the appeals process that aided Rodney Reed’s unlawful conviction and imminent death sentence.


Film Synopsis: Rodney Reed was convicted of raping and killing 19 year-old Stacey Stites in May of 1998 and sentenced to death. Many observers felt Reed’s conviction was a miscarriage of justice, and that the evidence points to another killer — Stites’ fiancé and Giddings, TX police officer Jimmy Fennell Jr. This documentary explores the evidence involved in the case and the context of the trial that led to Reed’s death sentence.

This independently produced documentary premiered at the SXSW 2006 Film Festival in Austin, TX and has since played extensively throughout the U.S. at festivals and universities.

FACT UPDATE: In 2008, Officer Fennell pled guilty to kidnapping and improper sexual activity with a person in custody and sentenced to 10 years in Jail. In 2012, former Travis County Medical Examiner Roberto Bayardo made dramatic ‘clarifications’ of his original testimony, including proffering that there was no evidence that Reed’s semen found on the victim “was placed there in any other fashion other than consensually”. In Fall 2012, Reed’s Federal Appeal was denied. In November 2013, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, the final point of relief prior to setting an execution date, agreed to hear oral arguments from Reed’s defense. The hearing is set for Dec. 4, 2013.

Directors/Producers: Ryan Polomski and Frank Bustoz