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Excerpt: "The state of Texas is facing growing calls to halt the execution of Rodney Reed, an African-American man who spent over 20 years in prison for a rape and murder he says he did not commit."

Rodney Reed listens during a hearing at the Bastrop County Criminal Justice Center in 2014. (photo: Jay Janner/AP)
Rodney Reed listens during a hearing at the Bastrop County Criminal Justice Center in 2014. (photo: Jay Janner/AP)


Is Texas About to Execute an Innocent Man? Rodney Reed's Family Demands Retrial Amid New Evidence

By Democracy Now!

06 November 19

 

he state of Texas is facing growing calls to halt the upcoming execution of Rodney Reed, an African-American man who has spent over 20 years on death row for a rape and murder he says he did not commit. A group of 26 Texas lawmakers — including both Democrats and Republicans — have written a letter this week to Governor Greg Abbott to stop the execution planned for November 20. More than 1.4 million people have signed an online petition to save Reed’s life. Supporters include celebrities Kim Kardashian West, Rihanna and Meek Mill. Reed was sentenced to die after being convicted of the 1996 murder of a 19-year-old white woman, Stacey Stites, with whom he was having an affair. But since Reed’s trial, substantial evidence has emerged implicating Stites’s then-fiancé, a white police officer named Jimmy Fennell, who was later jailed on kidnapping and rape charges in another case. In a major development, a man who spent time in jail with Fennell signed an affidavit last month asserting that Fennell had admitted in prison that he had killed his fiancée because she was having an affair with a black man. We speak with Rodney Reed’s brother Rodrick Reed, his sister-in-law Uwana Akpan and lawyer Bryce Benjet of the Innocence Project.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The state of Texas is facing growing calls to halt the execution of Rodney Reed, an African-American man who spent over 20 years in prison for a rape and murder he says he did not commit. A group of 26 Texas lawmakers, including both Democrats and Republicans, penned a letter this week asking Governor Greg Abbott to stop the execution planned for November 20th. More than a 1.4 million people have signed an online petition to save Reed’s life. Supporters include celebrities Kim Kardashian West, Rihanna and Meek Mill.

Rodney Reed was sentenced to die after being convicted by an all-white jury for the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites, a 19-year-old white woman. The two were having an affair at the time. But substantial evidence has since emerged implicating Stites’ fiancé, a white police officer named Jimmy Fennell, who was later jailed on kidnapping and rape charges in another case. In a major development, a man who spent time in jail with Fennell signed an affidavit last month asserting that Fennell had admitted in prison he killed his fiancée because she was having an affair with a black man.

Later in the show, we’ll be joined by Rodney Reed’s brother and sister-in-law. But first, let’s turn to the documentary A Plea for Justice, made by Filmmakers for Justice.

REPORTER: The Bastrop County sheriff says that they have found the body of a woman along the dirt road of 1441. Now, let me tell you, this morning 19-year-old Stacey Lee Stites was reported missing and never arrived at work.

NARRATOR: In 2006, a small documentary film team helped expose how an innocent man ended up on Texas’s death row.

STEPHEN KENG: My personal opinion when I heard that she had been killed was that Fennell had done it. Immediately. And I know a number of people around here that felt the same way.

NARRATOR: It soon became apparent that the case against Rodney Reed was not just a small-town affair.

JIMMIE BROWN: And I believe the state knew about it. I believe the district attorney for Bastrop knew about it. I believe the sheriff’s department knew about it. And I believe the Bastrop Police Department knew about it. And I do believe they covered that up. They did not want a fellow officer implicated.

NARRATOR: In the past 13 years, the evidence has continued to mount in favor of Rodney Reed’s innocence.

JUDY MAGGIO: A Georgetown police sergeant is spending the night behind bars. Jimmy Fennell Jr. is accused of sexually assaulting a woman he detained.

KXAN NEWS ANCHOR: His guilty pleas today could play a major role in the appeal process of convicted murderer Rodney Reed.

NARRATOR: Key witnesses have recanted crucial testimony.

KXAN REPORTER: Did Roberto Bayardo make missteps that hindered justice in some of the most high-profile crimes? A man within days of execution now awaiting word of an appeal, after Bayardo clarified his conclusions on when that woman died.

NARRATOR: Key law enforcement officials who oversaw the initial investigation have been charged and convicted for their own misconduct.

REPORTER: The man who oversaw the Reed investigation, Bastrop Sheriff Richard Hernandez, who also turned out to be a dirty cop and pled guilty to six felonies.

NARRATOR: And critical scientific medical evidence has been discovered that essentially exonerates Rodney Reed.

DR. MICHAEL BADEN: She had been face down for five or more hours in one position before she was turned over into a new position. She was dead around midnight. She was already dead.

NARRATOR: Yet, instead of exonerating Reed or even retrying him under fair conditions, the Texas courts have decided to set a November 20th execution date for this year.

AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt from A Plea for Justice about the Rodney Reed case. Last month, the popular daytime TV host Dr. Phil aired an interview he did with Rodney Reed on death row.

PHILLIP McGRAW: If you have a message to say, what is it?

RODNEY REED: I am absolutely innocent in this case. I absolutely had nothing to do with Stacey’s death. I want to be a father to my kids. I want to be a grandfather to my grandchildren. I want to be able to be the son to look after my mother, and the brother to my brothers. I want to be a part of my family and my friends’ life.

PHILLIP McGRAW: And to be very clear, did you rape and murder Stacey Stites?

RODNEY REED: No, I absolutely did not. No.

PHILLIP McGRAW: You had nothing to do with it at all?

RODNEY REED: Nothing to do with Stacey’s death. I wasn’t with her that night. I had absolutely nothing to do with her death.

PHILLIP McGRAW: And you said that they didn’t want to bring in — if there’s DNA evidence in these allegations against you for other sexual assaults that they are throwing up against the wall, you’re saying, “Let’s bring all that forward.”

RODNEY REED: Allow me —

PHILLIP McGRAW: Bring that — if there is that DNA evidence, we have technology now that they didn’t have then.

RODNEY REED: Yes.

PHILLIP McGRAW: You’re saying, “Bring that — let’s bring that out now.”

RODNEY REED: Allow me —

PHILLIP McGRAW: “Let’s find out if that’s right.”

RODNEY REED: Let’s test it. Don’t fault me for anything that you have done.

AMY GOODMAN: Rodney Reed, speaking on the Dr. Phil show ahead of his execution scheduled for November 20th.

Well, I recently sat down with Rodney Reed’s brother and sister-in-law, who we’ll hear from later in the show. They recently came to our studio along with Bryce Benjet, a senior attorney at the Innocence Project. I began by asking Bryce Benjet to lay out the story.

BRYCE BENJET: Stacey Stites was found murdered on the afternoon of April 23rd. And her fiancé, Jimmy Fennell, claimed that she was murdered while on her way to work that morning.

AMY GOODMAN: Like at 3:00 in the morning or something.

BRYCE BENJET: Yeah, roughly 3:00 in the morning. And the state theorized that Rodney Reed had somehow abducted her while she was on her way to work, kidnapped her, took her out to a remote location, sexually assaulted her and murdered her.

And the state’s case really rested on two pillars. One was forensic science. They had three experts who claimed that the presence of a small amount of Rodney’s semen was evidence that he had sexually assaulted Ms. Stites at around the time that she was murdered. And they relied on Jimmy Fennell to establish this timeline and to establish that they were a happy couple in which Ms. Stites would not be having an affair with Mr. Reed. Meanwhile, at the trial, Mr. Reed presented some evidence, two witnesses who said that they did know about this affair. In fact, his unprepared lawyers had access to other witnesses, but they went uninvestigated and not presented.

And so, over the two decades that we’ve been working on this case, every aspect of the state’s proof has essentially evaporated. The forensic experts who the state relied on have all recanted their testimony.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain.

BRYCE BENJET: So, the forensic pathologist, Roberto Bayardo, who did the autopsy, he established the time frame of this 3:00 murder, and he said that the semen was fresh, therefore had to be related to the murder. That was backed up by a forensic serologist from the DNA lab, as well as a DPS, Texas DPS, crime scene technician. None of that was true.

AMY GOODMAN: DPS means?

BRYCE BENJET: Texas Department of Public Safety. And so, none of this theory was true. They told the jury that this small amount of sperm could not have been there for more than 20 hours — 24 hours after they were found. In fact, that number is 72. And when we went back and talked to Roberto Bayardo, who was the key witness for the state about this theory, he retracted his entire testimony. He said that the state should not have relied on his estimation of the time of death and should not have relied on his statements about the semen. And, in fact, he said that the evidence suggested that there was consensual sex between Rodney and Stacey the day before, which is exactly what Rodney has said all along to his lawyers, at a bond hearing where Rodney’s mother testified about the relationship and at the trial. And so, we really have a situation where every aspect of the state’s proof has been negated. But that’s not all. The state, for months, investigated Jimmy Fennell as the prime suspect in the murder. And this was even before —

AMY GOODMAN: This is Stacey’s fiancé —

BRYCE BENJET: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: — and cop. He’s a cop.

BRYCE BENJET: Yes. So, local law enforcement officer Jimmy Fennell, who’s engaged to Stacey Stites, was the prime suspect for months. They knew it was not Fennell’s semen in the body, but they still believed that he was a suspect. He was actively interrogated. And after he failed a second polygraph test on facts about the murder, he invoked his right to silence and refused to cooperate. That investigation, however, stopped after Mr. Reed’s semen was identified. And suddenly Jimmy Fennell was no longer their suspect, and Rodney Reed — Jimmy Fennell was no longer their suspect, and Rodney Reed was prosecuted and then ultimately sentenced to death.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, the alternative theory of what happened, with the rookie cop, Jimmy Fennell, the fiancé of Stacey Stites, was? What happened that night?

BRYCE BENJET: Well, and so, every piece of evidence that we’ve found, over the course of 20 years now, points to Jimmy Fennell. It points to the fact that the law enforcement officers investigating this case who suspected Fennell were right. When you look at Fennell’s background, he had a history of excessive force even prior to the murder. His girlfriend right after the murder described him as emotionally abusive, virulently racist and —

AMY GOODMAN: He’s white, and Rodney Reed is black.

BRYCE BENJET: Yes, yes. And so, the idea of an interracial relationship would not be something he would like.

AMY GOODMAN: And didn’t someone quote Stacey as saying that he told her he would kill her if she was ever unfaithful?

BRYCE BENJET: Yes. In fact, that’s something we’ve heard from several witnesses now. And as we’ve looked into this case, we’ve always suspected things about Jimmy Fennell from the beginning. I took this case in 2002. And lo and behold, several years later, I pick up the newspaper, and we find out that Jimmy Fennell had been arrested. And ultimately, he was prosecuted and pled guilty to crimes related to kidnapping and raping a woman while he was on patrol. And when the Texas Department of Public Safety investigated Jimmy Fennell, they found that this was not a one-off incident, that there was a pattern going back years. And so, here we have the defense, which was woefully unprepared, did not have the time to present a case, and now we know everything about that defense. Everything that Rodney Reed was saying has in fact been shown to be true.

AMY GOODMAN: Bryce Benjet, senior attorney at the Innocence Project. His client Rodney Reed is scheduled to be executed by the state of Texas November 20th. When we come back, we’ll be joined by Rodney Reed’s brother and sister-in-law. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “Mercy, Mercy Me” by Marvin Gaye. This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue to look at the case of Rodney Reed, the African-American man scheduled to be executed November 20th by the state of Texas for a murder and rape he says he did not commit. Growing evidence shows Reed was framed as part of a cover-up to protect a white police officer, Jimmy Fennell, who killed his own fiancée, Stacey Stites. More than 1.4 million people have signed an online petition to save Reed’s life. I recently sat down with two members of Rodney Reed’s family: his brother Rodrick Reed and his sister-in-law Uwana Akpan, as well as Rodney Reed’s attorney, Bryce Benjet of the Innocence Project. I asked Rodrick Reed how it felt to have his brother face the death penalty all these years.

RODRICK REED: Well, it’s been real hard. You know, it’s like they took a — they got a piece of us down there on death row, as well, you know? It’s stressful. I don’t know if words can describe it, when you know your brother is innocent of something and then you have to leave him in a place where they’re trying to kill him. You know what I mean? That’s a stressful thing. And I try to do all that I can do to keep a positive mind about the situation, try to keep him positive and everything. And God is so amazing, because when I go down there to try to lift him up, he’s lifting us up. He’s making us smile. He’s encouraging us. You know what I mean? And it’s been tough. It’s been 22-and-a-half years since we’ve been able to touch him, since my mom has been able to just hold his hand.

AMY GOODMAN: No-contact visit?

RODRICK REED: No contact. No contact at all. We haven’t, no. And, you know, the hardest thing for me in these 22-and-a-half years, each and every time, is when — from the first time I went to visit him to the last time I’ve seen him, is when I touch that glass and give him that pound, leaving him behind. I can’t take him with me, as bad as I want to, because I know he’s innocent, but I have to leave him there, you know. And I haven’t got over that yet, and it’s been 22-and-a-half years. That’s real hard.

AMY GOODMAN: How is your mother coping with this?

RODRICK REED: My mother, she’s a strong lady. She’s coping. You know, I’ve seen this age her. I’ve seen it, the age. She’s just like — she’s aging. But at the same time, she’s very strong. She’s positive. And she holds onto her faith, you know. And right now she’s very optimistic. She and I and the rest of the family believe Rodney is coming home.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, one of the things that are astounding is that it’s not as if all the evidence has been destroyed, so how do you go back and recreate the situation? There is evidence waiting to be DNA tested in police custody.

RODRICK REED: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: So why hasn’t it been tested?

RODRICK REED: I believe it hasn’t been tested because they know what the test results will come out to. It will point to Jimmy Fennell, David Hall, Ed Salmela, those guys’ DNA all over the scene. All of them are cops. And I believe that’s the reason they haven’t tested it, honestly. That’s just my opinion.

AMY GOODMAN: And what is the evidence that you want DNA tested? And in whose custody is it?

BRYCE BENJET: We have asked for DNA testing for years now from the Bastrop County district attorney, which certainly has the power to release the evidence. We’ve offered to pay for that testing.

AMY GOODMAN: What is the evidence?

BRYCE BENJET: And so, Stacey Stites was murdered. She was strangled with a belt. That belt was then separated into two pieces by the murderer, one left by the body, one left by the vehicle in which she was traveling, or alleged to have been traveling. And so, obviously, the murderer handled both pieces of that belt. That, at the time, was not the type of evidence that you could test and get DNA from the murderer, because it was very early DNA technology. Today we can test that belt. We can test areas of the clothing where she was dragged and find evidence of the murderer. And unfortunately, even though we’ve offered to pay for the testing, the state has refused. We’ve gone to court about this. And the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has interpreted the DNA law in Texas to prohibit DNA testing of this type of evidence.

AMY GOODMAN: Why? On what grounds?

BRYCE BENJET: You know, I can’t —

AMY GOODMAN: On what grounds are they citing?

BRYCE BENJET: I can’t really give a principled explanation for it. But essentially what they have said, the Court of Criminal Appeals has said, is “We don’t think that the Legislature would want such an expansive right to DNA testing.” And we’ve shown time and time again that that’s just not true. Every time the Court of Criminal Appeals interprets the DNA law in a way that restricts access, we’ve gone to the Legislature, and the Legislature has expanded access. And so, this is a situation where, I hate to say it, but the will of the people of Texas, that if we’re going to have the death penalty, that we should make sure at least that the people that are subjected to that punishment are actually guilty.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back seven years —

BRYCE BENJET: Sure.

AMY GOODMAN: — to June of 2012. A federal magistrate judge denied an appeal by Rodney Reed based on what he called unreliable claims of his consensual relationship with Stacey Stites. One reason the judge cited was that all of the witnesses affirming the relationship were friends of Rodney’s and not Stacey Stites. In this clip from the documentary series A Plea for Justice, filmmakers interview Alicia Slater, a friend and former co-worker of Stacey, who confirms her relationship with Rodney Reed.

ALICIA SLATER: There was one instance where we were having lunch in the break room together, and it was just the two of us, and she pretty much was confiding in me. We were talking about her engagement ring. And I was like, “Oh, are you so excited to get married?” And she said she really wasn’t so excited to get married, and quickly followed that with saying that she was actually sleeping with a black guy named Rodney and that she was, you know, not sure what her fiancé would do if he found out, and she had to be pretty careful about it. So, she wasn’t really excited about getting married, because she was sleeping with a black dude named Rodney, she said.

NARRATOR: According to Rodney Reed’s first lawyer, Jimmie Brown, there were multiple co-workers at Stacey’s grocery store job who knew and witnessed a relationship between she and Rodney Reed.

JIMMIE BROWN: On everything that Rodney told me that happened, I was able to verify.

NARRATOR: In a 2015 affidavit, Jimmie Brown states, when he returned to the store a week later, those same witnesses were unwilling to speak with him, under a presumed threat from the Bastrop police. Witness intimidation and threat were two of the main reasons Rodney Reed’s lawyers had difficulty establishing the relationship during the original trial. However, since then, 20 different people have come forward giving their personal knowledge that the relationship indeed existed.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Alicia Slater, a friend and former co-worker of Stacey Stites, from the documentary A Plea for Justice. Bryce Benjet, talk about the significance of what she’s saying. And what court has heard what she had to say?

BRYCE BENJET: So, this has been a problem all along. There was, as I said, some evidence of the relationship at trial, but it wasn’t believed, I think in large part because the state presented this invalid forensic science making that relationship impossible. That’s been recanted, so that should change the way you look at these things. But over the years, Alicia Slater and more people have come out, who have no affiliation with the family, and, frankly, just have information. And so, this is the key that the federal courts denied. And when we’ve presented this new evidence to the state courts, they’ve refused to consider it.

AMY GOODMAN: Who was the first lawyer?

BRYCE BENJET: So, Jimmie Brown was the first lawyer who was hired by the family. Unfortunately, the family didn’t have the resources to continue to retain him, so the court actually appointed a series of lawyers who did not really prepare the case. And unfortunately, there was a rush to trial here, so that the lawyers who ultimately tried the case had almost no time to prepare. And they were investigating, they were doing forensic testing, even while the trial was going on.

AMY GOODMAN: And this is a death penalty case.

BRYCE BENJET: Yes. And so, a death penalty case often requires over a year of preparation. In this case, there was less than two months before these lawyers were actually working on the case and then they started picking the jury.

AMY GOODMAN: The allegation of witness tampering that came out in the documentary A Plea for Justice, what is that about?

BRYCE BENJET: So, we heard from the first lawyer who was hired by the Reed family, went out, and they talked to a number of witnesses who believed that there was a relationship. He comes back soon thereafter, and nobody will talk to him. And we’ve heard from the trial attorneys that as soon as that they would drive into town, they would pick up a police tail. So, this idea of witness intimidation is in the record. This is not some speculation here. This was not a fair trial. And with everything we know now, no jury would end up convicting Rodney Reed. And so what we need is just a fair trial, where everybody hears truthful evidence, they hear valid science, they hear all the facts. And that’s all that Rodney wants. And we think that that’s what justice requires.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s now go to the renowned medical examiner Michael Baden, speaking during an evidentiary hearing in October 2017. And again, tell us who Baden is, just the significance of his stature.

BRYCE BENJET: Sure. Michael Baden is essentially a legend of forensic pathology. He was involved in the re-examination of the murder of John F. Kennedy, of the Martin Luther King assassination, and is really the go-to forensic pathologist when the most important issues in our country come up with regard to forensic pathology.

AMY GOODMAN: And when was he on the stand?

BRYCE BENJET: This was at an evidentiary hearing that was ordered based on suppressed exculpatory evidence that we discovered in 2017.

AMY GOODMAN: So this is a clip from the documentary A Plea for Justice with Dr. Michael Baden.

DR. MICHAEL BADEN: Well, usually, the first question that police officers and investigators want to know is “When did she die?” because that will influence the investigation of whom to interview and whether — who’s telling the truth and who isn’t. .... This is something that all medical examiners and coroners learn immediately, is that there are certain changes in the body that indicate how long somebody has been dead. … In my opinion, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, she was dead before midnight of the day — the next day that she was found. … She was dead around midnight. She was already dead.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Dr. Michael Baden. And the significance of what he is saying, and what you’re calling for now?

BRYCE BENJET: So, what he’s saying is that Rodney Reed’s guilt, the state’s theory of how this crime occurred, is medically and scientifically impossible. And the time of death is actually when Jimmy Fennell said that he was alone with Stacey Stites in their apartment. And this was significant because at that hearing we also heard from Jimmy Fennell’s best friend at the time, who was a Bastrop sheriff’s officer, who Jimmy Fennell actually gave a different story about where he was during this critical time period of when Stacey was murdered. He claimed that he had actually gone out late that night and was drinking, and that he came home late at night and that Stacey left in the morning without him. And so, what we have here is a completely different forensic picture that shows the time of death is at a time that Jimmy Fennell told the jury he was at home with Stacey Stites, and now does not even have a consistent story about. When we asked Jimmy Fennell about this at the hearing, he refused to testify and asserted his Fifth Amendment privilege not to incriminate himself.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Rodrick Reed, your brother Rodney, that night, why the time matters so much, where was he at that time?

RODRICK REED: He was with my cousin Chris Aldridge. They was in a — it was like a little community center right next door to the families. Everybody hung out there, and they was just sitting out there, just hanging out. That’s where he was.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re wearing a T-shirt that says “Face the forensics,” and it’s a picture of Rodney, #StopTheExecution, #TestTheDNA, #FreeRodneyReedNow!

RODRICK REED: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And now is when we go to Uwana Akpan. You’re wearing a different T-shirt. It says, “Grant Rodney Reed a new trial.” So I want to talk about that and also when you came into this picture. You’re the sister-in-law of Rodney.

UWANA AKPAN: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re married to Rodrick. Talk about when you first learned about this case.

UWANA AKPAN: I first learned about the case when I was working as a survivor advocate at Safe Place. There’s this annual MLK march that happens every year in Austin, and the ending parade ends at Huston-Tillotson University. And the first table that I saw was one — I think there was like flyers for Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, and it had something related to Rodney’s case. And I was talking with someone who was at the table. Basically, they invited me to come to an event about Rodney’s case and everything. And when I got to the meeting, they talked about how there was DNA that hadn’t been tested in his case. This was like right around his first execution date, the March 5th, 2015, one. And I was just — I thought it was crazy that they were trying to take this person’s life and there was DNA that hadn’t been tested that could prove that he didn’t do the crime. And so, you know, that’s when I got involved.

AMY GOODMAN: And that’s also when you met Rodrick.

UWANA AKPAN: Yeah, soon after.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s it been like for you to go to the death row prison to see Rodney?

UWANA AKPAN: It’s hard, because I know how, you know, Rodrick and Rodney were really close. And, you know, Rodrick talks about his relationship with Rodney all the time, how that was — to me, the relationship was like a best friend, deeper than a best friend. And seeing the pain of what this has done, it’s hard. When we go up there seeing — it’s like a feeling of extreme despair, you know, seeing how the tone changes when we leave Livingston. It’s tough.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to Connie Lear now, a victim of the Georgetown police officer Jimmy Fennell, Stacey Stites’ fiancé. Fennell was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for raping Lear after he took her into police custody. This is a clip from A Plea for Justice of Lear being interviewed on the show Crime Watch Daily.

CONNIE LEAR: He just kept telling me to shut up. He asked me to dance for him. And I told him no. And when I told him no, he got mad. And he grabbed me and slammed me up against the back of his car, where the trunk is. I kept telling him to stop, but he just told me to shut up, that I knew I liked it, and then, if I told anybody, that he’d hunt me down when he got out of prison, and kill me.

AMY GOODMAN: Fennell was convicted of raping her and went to jail for 10 years.

BRYCE BENJET: Yeah, he pled guilty to kidnapping and sex charges relating to that arrest. And again, the Texas law enforcement investigation of Jimmy Fennell arising out of that actually showed that that was a pattern of conduct, and so this was not an isolated incident. And so, everything that the defense was saying to the jury, everything that we suspected when we first took this case, has proven to be true.

AMY GOODMAN: Where is he now? Because he just recently got out of prison.

UWANA AKPAN: We’ve been told by folks who have actually been out to the church and visited, that he’s — so, he’s a pastor at a church in Granger, Texas.

AMY GOODMAN: A pastor.

UWANA AKPAN: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And what did they say about his congregation, about his church?

UWANA AKPAN: They didn’t talk about all that, but basically that they went up there. And I think one person said that they delivered a “Free Rodney Reed” bumper sticker to like one of the members of the congregation, and they were like, “I don’t want that.”

AMY GOODMAN: Rodrick, what are you calling for now?

RODRICK REED: We’re calling for — we’re calling for justice. We’re calling for Rodney to get a new trial, you know, because we’re confident that when given this new trial, with all the evidence over all these years, all the testimonies and stuff from different witnesses and everything, that Rodney is coming home. We’re confident of that. All we have to do is have the opportunity to present that, because his life is on the line. I can’t see them taking my brother’s life for something he didn’t do, and you did not give us that avenue to save his life. You are executing an innocent man. And at the end of the day, I don’t see how anybody could sleep with that on their conscience, their mind, their heart.

AMY GOODMAN: What is your plea to the community right now? And how important is community response as this case goes through the courts, your brother behind bars for more than two decades?

RODRICK REED: Our plea right now is for everybody to get involved, everybody to act, you know, to contact Governor Greg Abbott, Ken Paxton, the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

AMY GOODMAN: Greg Abbott, has he made a statement on your brother’s case, the governor of Texas?

RODRICK REED: Not to — not to my knowledge. Not to my knowledge. And just contact everybody. You know, use your social media. Get this story out to help bring justice out of the streets and back into the courtroom where it belongs, you know, so we can get peace not just for Rodney, but for Stacey Stites, as well. Her family is going through this, as well. And I feel sorry for her family that they have to go through this.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you know her family? And where do they stand on this?

RODRICK REED: I know members of her family. There’s members of her family, they wrote a letter to the governor asking, back in 2015, for clemency for my brother, because they believe Rodney did not commit this crime. And they’ve said they believe Jimmy Fennell has gotten away with murder, in this letter to the governor. And they wrote the same letter to Bastrop County District Attorney Bryan Goertz. They’re stating this. One of the family members was on the Dr. Phil show with us, as well, sitting right beside me. And I had dinner with her that night, later that night, and she was telling me about, you know, how the family feels. They’re torn. Their family is torn. So they’re going through pain. My family is going through pain. And yet, a murderer is still out there on the street, and my brother is locked up. And we are dealing with this fight every day. We wake up with it on our mind. We go to bed with that on our mind. And this has been going on far too long.

As far as other people that have been executed on Texas death row and later found out to be innocent, you know, that’s hard for me to hear, because, see, you can’t undo that. You can’t undo that. And especially, you’re trying to take his life, and you haven’t tested the murder weapon? You haven’t called all the witnesses? Who does that? Where do they do that at? Apparently in Bastrop County. That’s where it’s taking place. And we’ve got to do something about it.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Rodney Reed’s brother Rodrick Reed, Rodney’s sister-in-law Uwana Akpan and his attorney Bryce Benjet of the Innocence Project. Rodney Reed is scheduled to be executed by the state of Texas November 20th for the murder of Stacey Stites in 1996. In late October, Reed’s legal team filed an application for clemency with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles after a man revealed that Stacey Stites’ fiancé, Jimmy Fennell, a white ex-police officer, had admitted to the murder while he was in prison for another crime. I want to end with the words of Rodney Reed speaking recently from death row to Dr. Phil.

PHILLIP McGRAW: Do you have anger about this? Do you have — I mean, you’ve been 22-and-a-half years in here for something you say you didn’t do.

RODNEY REED: Something I didn’t do.

PHILLIP McGRAW: Are you angry about that?

RODNEY REED: Initially I was, coming into prison, but then you have to let go of that, that anger. You can’t live like that. I see it this way: The things that you have no control of, don’t try to control the things you have no control of.

PHILLIP McGRAW: You said you miss the simple things in life. What are those simple things that you miss?

RODNEY REED: I mean, just being out, being out and about, taking long walks, being able to see the moon, being able to try and count the stars.

PHILLIP McGRAW: How long has it been since you’ve seen the moon, since you’ve seen the sky?

RODNEY REED: Well, sometimes — we’ve got these little windows with these little slits where we can look out. Sometimes I’m looking out, you can’t see them because of the angle that the building is. You know they’re there. I know they’re there, though, but you just can’t see them.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Rodney Reed speaking to Dr. Phil on death row in Texas. Rodney Reed is scheduled to be executed by the state of Texas November 20th.

When we come back, we look at election results from around the United States with John Nichols of The Nation. Stay with us.

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