The case of Rodney Reed has been much in the news lately; convicted of murdering a police officer’s fiancée back in 1996, Reed is slated for execution this March. There are quite a few great articles out there with details about the case but long story short, he was convicted mainly because his DNA was found inside Stacey Stites’ body.
After going through the lengthy appeals process Reed is scheduled to die on March 5. As early as 2002, questions have been raised about the reliability of his conviction. It appears that Stites and Reed were involved in a clandestine relationship, which could explain why there was evidence of sex but nothing else linking Reed to the murder.
Misinterpretation of an expert’s testimony regarding the time of death and incorrect testimony about the life of the DNA found contributed to the conviction.
“…there is one essential piece of physical evidence that Reed's defense attorneys say they never even knew existed. A state DPS lab report, dated May 13, 1998, analyzed DNA taken from two beer cans found near Stites' body. For reasons never satisfactorily explained, that lab report was never provided to the defense prior to or during Reed's trial. The analysis excluded Reed, but two other potential suspects -- former Bastrop Police Officer Ed Salmela (now dead, apparently by suicide), and former Giddings Police Officer David Hall, a good friend and neighbor of Fennell -- could not be excluded. Had they been aware of that DNA evidence, Clay-Jackson said, it would have enabled the defense to offer an adequate explanation of how Fennell could have traveled from Giddings to Bastrop and then back home by 6:45am without the pickup truck, when the call came from HEB reporting that Stites had never arrived for work.”
Jimmy Fennell, the fiancé, is currently incarcerated for the raping a woman while on duty. It will be interesting to see how this case turns out, and whether Texas will be willing to take a closer look at another potentially wrongful conviction.