Texas lawmakers seek reprieve for death row inmate Reed

A bipartisan group of Texas state senators urged Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday to grant a reprieve to death row inmate Rodney Reed, whose case has become a cause célèbre as his Nov. 20 execution date nears.

Reed, whose case has been touted by Kim Kardashian West, Rihanna and Meek Mill, was convicted in the 1996 rape and murder of 20-year-old Stacey Stites after his DNA was connected to her.

He initially told authorities he did not know the victim. He told NBC News recently, ""It was the worst mistake I ever could have made."

He now says he had a consensual relationship with her, a claim backed by several people, according to his defense team, and had nothing to do with her demise.

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Kim Kardashian visits the White House to talk prison reform
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, left, and Ivanka Trump applaud as Kim Kardashian West, who is among the celebrities who have advocated for criminal justice reform, is introduced during an event on second chance hiring and criminal justice reform with President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, June 13, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Kim Kardashian West, who is among the celebrities who have advocated for criminal justice reform, arrives to speak during an event on second chance hiring and criminal justice reform with President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, June 13, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Kim Kardashian West, who is among the celebrities who have advocated for criminal justice reform, speaks about second chance hiring in the East Room of the White House, Thursday June 13, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Kim Kardashian West, who is among the celebrities who have advocated for criminal justice reform, speaks during an event on second chance hiring and criminal justice reform with President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, June 13, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Kim Kardashian West, who is among the celebrities who have advocated for criminal justice reform, speaks during an event on second chance hiring and criminal justice reform with President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, June 13, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Kim Kardashian West, who is among the celebrities who have advocated for criminal justice reform, sits with Ivanka Trump during an event on second chance hiring and criminal justice reform with President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, June 13, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Kim Kardashian West, who is among the celebrities who have advocated for criminal justice reform, stands with White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump during an event on second chance hiring and criminal justice reform with President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, June 13, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Reality TV star Kim Kardashian departs the West Wing after meetings at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 30, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Reality TV star Kim Kardashian arrives for meetings at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 30, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
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WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 30: Television personality Kim Kardashian (C) enters the White House grounds on May 30, 2018 in Washington, DC. Kardashian was scheduled to meet with members of the Trump administration during her visit. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Reality TV star Kim Kardashian departs the West Wing after meetings at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 30, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Reality TV star Kim Kardashian departs the West Wing after meetings at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 30, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
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Friday's request by eight Republicans and eight Democrats serving in the Texas senate argues that moving forward with the execution amid new, possibly exculpatory evidence would erode public trust "not only in capital punishment, but in Texas justice itself."

The 16 senators said in a letter to Abbott and to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles that the new information, including "compelling new witness statements and forensic evidence" should be weighed.

A spokesman for Abbott did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reed said he kept the relationship secret because he's African American and she was white — and because she was dating a police officer.

"We're in the South," said Reed, 51. "There's still a lot of racism going on."

Death Row inmate Rodney Reed in Bastrop County District Court on Oct. 10, 2017 asking Judge Doug Shaver to reconsider testimony from his murder trial in the slaying of Stacey Stites.

The nonprofit Innocence Project has taken up his case. Defense attorney Bryce Benjet said the state's case is based on the false concept that "a young black man like Rodney Reed would not be dating Stacey Stites."

At the time, Stites was engaged to law officer Jimmy Fennell, who Reed claims is the real killer. His defense team has found witnesses who say Fennell expressed anger and threats over his suspicions that she was seeing a black man behind his back.

Fennel later served 10 years in prison for kidnapping and improper sexual activity with a woman he had taken into custody when he was an officer with the Georgetown Police Department in Texas, according to The Austin Chronicle.

An inmate who served time with Fennel said in an affidavit that he had confessed to Stites' murder, according to Reed's legal team.

Stites' family denies Fennel killed her and believes Reed is being rightly punished.

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