In a stunning decision handed down Friday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted the execution of Rodney Reed, an African-American death row prisoner who was scheduled to be executed on Wednesday for a murder he says he did not commit. The appeals court ordered a review of the case to examine claims of prosecutorial misconduct. Millions of people around the country had joined Reed’s cause in recent weeks amid mounting evidence that another man may be responsible for the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites, a 19-year-old white woman. In 1998, an all-white jury sentenced Reed to die for Stites’s murder after his DNA was found inside her body. The two were having an affair at the time of her death. But new and previously ignored details in the case indicate that Stites’s then-fiancé, a white police officer named Jimmy Fennell, may in fact be responsible for the killing. Fennell was later jailed on kidnapping and rape charges in another case. Last month, a man who spent time in jail with Fennell signed an affidavit saying Fennell had admitted in prison to killing his fiancée because she was having an affair with a black man. We speak with Rodrick Reed, brother of Rodney Reed; Uwana Akpan, sister-in-law of Rodney Reed; and Bryce Benjet, senior staff attorney at the Innocence Project, who has represented Reed for many years. “As we’ve investigated this case, evidence continues to mount that shows that Rodney didn’t commit the crime, and implicates Fennell,” Benjet says.
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