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I’ve been covering the #RodneyReed case for 18 yrs. Friday’s story @theintercept is a summary of what’s happened over years, w/a focus on some of the new evidence challenging his conviction. But the case has been problematic from the get-go. (1/22)
@theintercept I got interested in the case back in 2001 when evidence came to light that the state withheld the results of some DNA testing from Reed’s trial attorneys. The DNA came from beer cans found near Stacey Stites’s body on April 23, 1996. (2/22)
@theintercept One of the reasons the state ultimately dismissed Stites’s cop fiancé Jimmy Fennell as a suspect was they couldn’t figure out how he would’ve gotten home from Bastrop that morning in time for an early morning call from Stites’s mother, reporting Stacey’s disappearance. (3/22)
@theintercept DNA testing on the cans eliminated Reed, but not 2 other possible contributors, both cops. One was Fennell’s neighbor. So, even under the state’s theory that Stites was killed that morning, Fennell was still a suspect because he could’ve had help. (4/22)
@theintercept The DNA evidence was considered in an evidentiary hearing before Judge Harold Towslee in early 2001. He’s the same judge who presided over Reed’s trial. And he decided that even if Reed had known about the DNA evidence at trial it wouldn’t have made a difference. (5/22)
@theintercept At Reed’s trial, the defense failed to deliver on a promise to provide the jury w/evidence of a relationship between Reed & Stites, & Fennell testified that his relationship w/her was loving & w/o conflict. Not long after Reed’s conviction, this narrative would be tested. (6/22)
@theintercept One story that has always troubled me came from a Dallas area cop who said that in a 1995 police academy class she overheard Fennell bragging to another cadet about how he would strangle his girlfriend if he ever found out she was cheating on him. (7/22)
@theintercept Stites was strangled with a braided belt. (8/22)
@theintercept That cop’s story, & others, were heard in another hearing in 2006. And, again, the judge decided none of it was credible & prolly wouldn’t have helped Reed at trial. This judge was Reva Towslee-Corbett. Fun fact: Judge Harold Towslee is her father. (9/22)
@theintercept From the beginning, the condition of Stites’s body was an issue. The state said science proved sperm DNA in her body was deposited close to her time of death, which they said was early in the morning of 4/23/1996. Reed’s defense attorneys failed to call a medical expert. (10/22)
@theintercept I always thought the sperm-based time-of-death determination reeked of junk science. So, in 2002 I asked a Texas ME unconnected to the case to review the evidence. He said the state’s assertions were unsound. But he also had other concerns. (11/22)
@theintercept There were Stites’s fingernails, which were rough-cut 2 the quick. He was also disturbed by differences in the way her body looked @ the crime scene & the way it looked @ autopsy. It appeared at least the body had been mishandled during transport. (12/22)
@theintercept In the following yrs a number of other MEs weighed in and all came to the same conclusion, that basing the theory of Stites’s death on the sperm was not scientifically sound. They also said that post-mortem changes to Stites’s body meant she’d been killed hours earlier. (13/22)
@theintercept In 2014, retired NYPD det. Kevin Gannon told me he noticed that right away. He was working on a #RodneyReed episode of the A&E show Dead Again. Post-mortem blood pooling showed Stites had been dead for hours before she was dumped. (14/22)
@theintercept Back in 1996, investigators found decomp fluid on the floorboard of Fennell’s truck. In crime scene photos, decomp fluid can be seen on Stites’s face.But before Fennell’s truck was fully processed the state released it back to him. He sold it. (15/22)
@theintercept For Gannon & his crew, the seatbelt in the truck was also important. The driver’s belt was fastened when the truck was found. As if someone had been sitting on it and not belted in. Who does that, they pondered? Cops. (16/22)
@theintercept Importantly, the post-mortem changes to Stites’s body meant she was killed the night before she was found. When Fennell said they were home alone together. All of this evidence has also been taken to courts. Guess what? Again, meh. Not enough to undermine the verdict. (17/22)
@theintercept Part of the problem with the case is the way courts have considered the evidence. The way the case was passed from father to daughter & also the way that Texas’ highest criminal court has considered it. They’ve looked at pieces of evidence and said, nothing to see here. (18/22)
@theintercept So, what about Fennell? He’s had a lot of problems. He went to jail for 10 years for a rape committed while in uniform and on duty. That case unlocked additional reports from other women about his menacing & violent behaviors. (19/22)
@theintercept What did Texas’s highest criminal court say about that? “Other than showing that Fennell has engaged in despicable and reprehensible conduct as an officer … the information does not exonerate Reed of Stacey’s murder.” (20/22)
@theintercept Fennell was released from prison last year. According to his lawyer, he is a new man. He may have a sketchy past, but is now a devout Christian and ministers to drug addicts on the streets. (21/22)
@theintercept #RodneyReed will be executed on November 20 unless someone intervenes. Plenty of voices have answered that call: @KimKardashian @rihanna @mcuban @Oprah @llcoolj among many others. But will the courts? Or @GovAbbott? (22/22)

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