/Texas parole board calls on governor to delay execution of condemned man who many say is innocent

Texas parole board calls on governor to delay execution of condemned man who many say is innocent

The highest criminal appeals court in Texas has halted the pending execution of Rodney Reed, who was scheduled to die next week for the killing of Stacey Stites in 1996.

That development came just hours after the Texas parole board voted unanimously Friday to recommend that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott delay Reed’s execution. The parole board had recommended a 120-day reprieve for Reed, 51. Abbott previously rejected any delay in the execution.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decision effectively returns the case to a trial court in Bastrop County so it can examine Reed’s claims that he is innocent and that prosecutors suppressed evidence and presented false testimony.  

Reed’s case has received support from celebrities like Beyonce, Kim Kardashian West, and Rihanna. Beyonce is among more than 500,000 who have signed a charge.org petition calling for a stay of the execution.

Reed has also drawn support from Sen. Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, who said there was a “remarkable bipartisan coalition” backing Reed because of what he called “credible evidence” of his innocence.

Death row inmate Rodney Reed, shown in a 2017 file photo, waves to his family in the Bastrop County District Court in Bastrop, Texas. Supporters for Reed, who's facing lethal injection in less than two weeks for a murder he says he didn't commit, are mounting a final push in the courts and on social media to stop his execution, which is being called into question by lawmakers, pastors, celebrities and the European Union.

Reed, who is black, was convicted of killing Stites, who was white, but his family and supporters have maintained his innocence, accusing her fiance, Jimmy Fennell, of the killing.

The case took a dramatic turn in October when a witness, who is a former Bastrop County deputy, said that Fennell, the fiance, knew she was having an affair. Key evidence in Reed’s conviction was DNA evidence on Stoites body.

In a petition filed on Nov. 12, eight additional witnesses came forward to support Reed, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The new witnesses backed Reed’s claim that he was having an affair with Stites. They also supported claims that Fennell had been involved in the killing.

Another witness, who is a former inmate, claims Fennell confessed to the killing while in prison in 2010.

Reed had been scheduled to be executed by lethal injection.

CONTRIBUTING: Austin American-Statesman