Sara Avery | Staff Writer
Photo Credit: Flickr User 4WardEver CampaignbUK
Texas prisoner Rodney Reed is set to be executed Nov. 20 after spending 21 years on death row for the murder of 19-year-old Stacy Stites in 1966.
However, new witness testimonies and doubt surrounding the initial evidence and trial of the case have helped garner nationwide support to stop the execution. Celebrities such as Yara Shahidi, Rihanna and Gigi Hadid have used their platforms to bring awareness to the case and call on Texas Governor Greg Abbott to grant Reed clemency.
“We must come together to prevent a gross injustice,” Shahidi tweeted.
According to Vox, the Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization for criminal justice reform, officially filed for clemency with the Texas Board of Pardons Oct. 30, citing several reasons why the case should be looked at again. One reason was that the murder weapon was never tested for DNA, and appeals for the weapon to be tested have been repeatedly denied. The
Innocence Project also has stated it thinks the case was racially motivated because Reed was convicted of killing Stites, a white woman, by an all-white jury.
“Yes, it’s racially motivated,” said Hampton University student Rachel Sutton, a senior psychology major. “If he was a white man, they wouldn’t have accused him and would’ve been more thorough.”
In a public affidavit filed with the state of Texas, former inmate Arthur Snow Jr. said Stites’ fiancé at the time, Jimmy Fennell, had confessed to the murder years ago while bragging about it to him on the recreational yard. The affadavit said Stites and Reed had been having an affair behind Fennell’s back and Fennell found out.
According to the affidavit, Fennell told Snow, “I had to kill my [expletive]-loving fiancée.”
The New York Times reported that Snow thought Fennell bragged about killing Stites to impress him and other members of the Aryan Brotherhood, whom Fennell had sought out for protection.
Snow then recalls seeing Reed’s picture next to Fennell’s in an article about the case a few months later. That is when he realized that Reed had been convicted for the murder that Fennell had confessed to him.
At first, he wasn’t going to come forward because of his “gang-mentality” and fear of being labeled a “snitch.” But after seeing another article about Reed, he decided to come forward with what he knew.
“I looked at the situation differently and tried to put myself in Reed’s shoes,” Snow said in the affidavit.
“When I did, it weighed on my conscious. I knew I couldn’t ignore this memory anymore.”
According to CNN, an attorney for Fennell called Snow a career criminal and said the Fennel has changed, citing his conversion to Christianity as well as his volunteer work to help those with drug addictions.
There also have been two other witnesses, according to Vox, who have come forward to corroborate the affair between Stites and Reed, which was a point of contention in the first trial.
Several petitions have been created to put pressure on Governor Abbott, including one on freerodneyreed.com, which already has 1.9 million signatures.
With the execution date only a few days away, activists are hoping that the social pressure will be enough for Abbott to pardon Reed.