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New Evidence Wins Death Row Inmate a Stayed Execution


flickr image by tgp
After several appeals to Texas Court of Criminal Appeals were denied, new evidence has resulted in an order for a stay of Rodney Reed’s execution that was scheduled to take place on March 5, 2015. The attorneys for Reed, the man convicted of the 1996 capital murder of Stacey Stites, have found new DNA evidence, which may support his declarations of innocence.

This new evidence is believed to illustrate that Stites, who prosecutors believed was abducted, raped and then killed by Reed, died hours before the prosecution argued in the original trial. The timeline plays an important part in proving Reed’s claims of innocence as Stites is believed to have been with another man, Jimmy Fennell, her then fiancé, during that time period.

Reed’s attorneys have found, what they believe to be, numerous flaws in the handling of evidence by the prosecution team, including the failure to DNA test the murder weapon. Additionally, the forensic expert who testified during trial that Reed raped Stites has since retracted his statement. DNA is often crucial evidence, and many times it can be the only evidence that links the defendant to the crime. Mr. Nelson has trained under Dr. Greg Hampikian (American who worked on DNA evidence in the Amanda Knox murder charge from Italy) at Boise St. University in DNA science and testing.

While Reed’s DNA was found on the victim, his attorneys state that was the result of an ongoing affair between Reed and Stites. Reed’s attorneys point to Fennell as the true murderer. Fennell is currently in prison after pleading guilty to the 2007 kidnapping and sexual assault of a woman in Georgetown.

What is Capital Murder?

Under Texas law, a person can only be condemned to death after being convicted of capital murder. Capital murder occurs when a person:

  • Kills a peace officer;
  • Intentionally kills during the commission of a kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, or arson;
  • Kills for monetary benefit;
  • Kills during a prison escape;
  • Is a prison inmate and kills a correctional officer or three or more people;
  • Is a prison inmate serving out a life sentence, or awaiting execution, and kills;
  • Kills a child under the age of ten (10);
  • Kills a public official in retaliation; or
  • Kills more than one person during a crime or in a series of related crimes.

What is a Stay of Execution?

A stay of execution is a court order halting the execution of an inmate who has been condemned to death. Stays of execution are temporarily granted when a legal issue arises that brings into question whether the inmate is in fact guilty of the capital offense for which he/she has been condemned to death. Once the legal issue has been solved, the stay may either be lifted and the execution rescheduled or the condemned inmate may be granted an appeal of his/her conviction.

An Experienced Criminal Law Attorney Can Help

Capital murder is the most serious crime in Texas. Consequences of a capital conviction include life imprisonment or condemnation to death. If you or a loved one has been charged or convicted of capital murder, you need to retain an experienced criminal law attorney to handle your case and appeals. The professionals at the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates have the knowledge and experience necessary to provide an effective defense that could help save your life. Call (281) 280-0100 today to discuss your case.