Hearings Could Determine Fate of Texas Death Row Inmate

An evidentiary hearing on Monday could lead to a new trial for Rodney Reed

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It was a case that shook the state of Texas in the 1990s and gained international attention again in recent years.

Rodney Reed, who was put on death row for the murder of a woman in 1996, could become a free man. The hearings that will determine his fate begin Monday.

Reed has been on death row for more than 20 years. An evidentiary hearing on Monday will kick off a reexamination of some of the evidence in his case that could grant him a new trial.

Reed has maintained his innocence and his attorneys believe he was wrongfully convicted of murdering 19-year old Stacey Stites in Bastrop in 1996. Bastrop is a small city located nearly 40 miles east of Austin.

Over the weekend, family, supporters, and lawmakers have been gathering for rallies and prayer vigils in Bastrop to demand his freedom. Rallies have also taken place outside the capitol building in Austin.

The latest developments in Reed’s case sparked in June when state prosecutors released disclosure letters stating there were witnesses who spoke about a possible consensual relationship between Stites and Reed.

His attorneys said those witness statements were never provided to his defense team 23 years ago, despite Reed claiming he had a secret relationship with Stites during his trial in 1998.

His defense team is accusing her then-fiancé in the murder -- former police officer Jimmy Fennel. He was a prime suspect in the case back then and the last person to see her alive but was ruled out due to lack of evidence.

Fennel has since served a decade in prison for unrelated sex crimes and kidnapping charges in another case.

Some of Stites' family members spoke to Reed by phone this weekend, expressing support for a new trial.

"I just want to tell you that I was just so always touched by your family and their support and love for you. I just pray that the things that have been done that perpetuate this injustice that has happened to you and to Stacey, that people will see it,” said Heather Campbell Stobbs, Stites' cousin, while speaking to Reed on speakerphone during a rally on Saturday.

Reed was scheduled to be executed in 2019 but the Texas court of appeals granted an indefinite stay at the last minute.

His case gained national and international attention at the time through The Innocence Project. Kim Kardashian West was vocal on social media about his innocence and even visited him on death row. Other celebrities like Oprah and Beyoncé have also expressed support for Reed’s release.

On Sunday night, family and supporters launched a marathon prayer vigil to carry on until 8 a.m. Monday when his hearing begins.

It will be the first of many hearings in this case over the next two weeks.

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