Reed was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection November 20th, but on Friday, November 15th, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted unanimously to delay Reed’s execution by 120 days. Just hours later, the state’s highest criminal court took that recommendation, allowing Reed’s legal team to present new evidence of his innocence.
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Reed has spent 22 years in prison after being convicted for the 1996 murder of Stacy Stites, though Reed has maintained his innocence and other revelations have bolstered his claim over the years. The first suspect in Stites’ death was her fiancé, Jimmy Fennell, but Reed became the primary suspect after police found his spermatozoa inside Stites’ body. Ultimately, Reed’s conviction hinged on now-discredited science that sperm could only survive for 24 hours after discharge (it can, in fact, survive outside the body for 72 hours). At trial, Reed said that he and Stites were in a consensual relationship. According to Reed’s advocates, the trial was weighted by ugly racist assumptions that Reed, a black man, must have raped and murdered Stites, a white woman.
In the years since the 1998 trial, all three of the state’s medical and forensic experts have disavowed their testimony, while others have come forward with evidence potentially exonerating Reed and suggesting that Fennell killed Stites. Fennell notably spent spent several years in prison after pleading guilty to kidnapping a woman, and his cellmate, Arthur J. Snow, a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, claimed in a sworn affidavit that Fennell bragged about killing Stites because she’d been having an affair with Reed. (Snow believed Fennell was trying to impress the Aryan Brotherhood and garner their protection.) Fennell’s lawyers have denied that he ever made this confession.
While many journalists and activists have been following Reed’s case for years, as his scheduled execution date grew nearer, a variety of celebrities also began to rally to his defense. Among those who have showed their support for Reed and called for his release are Rihanna, Meek Mill, and Kim Kardashian.
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