Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Maybe They Won't Kill This Innocent Guy

Rodney Reed, almost certainly did not rape and murder Stacey Stites that April day in 1996, just three weeks before her wedding to Jimmy Lewis Fennell, Jr.  

As a factoid, that's not particularly interesting either way you look at it.  After all, there are billions of people who certainly did not rape and murder her, and there are billions of people Rodney Reed certainly did not rape and murder.  But factoids arise in context, and the context is that Reed is on death row for killing Stites.  And Texas has been planning to kill him, in return, next week.

Which, as I say, he almost certainly did not do.

But this was Bastrop, Tx., not the most racially enlightened of places, they say.  And he was black; she was white; they were having an affair.  Oh, and Jimmy Fennell, Jr. was a cop.

Fennell was with Stites, he said, late that night.  But early in the morning - well, that's when they say she was abducted, driven away, and killed.  And that sperm with Reed's DNA, that had to have been deposited in her that morning, the forensic guys said.

Until, of course, it was later.  And some folks who actually knew what they were doing looked at the evidence.  Forensic pathologists said

  • NO!  It's not possible she was killed where they say.  Lividity proves she was killed elsewhere and the body then moved.
  • NO! It's not possible she was killed as late as they say.  She was killed hours earlier, the night before.  At the time she was, Fennell said, with Fennell.
  • NO! It's not true that the sperm with Reed's DNA had to have been deposited that morning.  The science doesn't support that view.  You just can't tell.

Hell, that last one is from the forensic guy who testified otherwise.  I was wrong, he now says. 

Oh, and though propensity evidence is of questionable legal value, Fennell is, these days, no longer a cop.  He's doing 20 years for kidnapping and raping another young woman.

So, Texas plans to kill an innocent guy next week.

So, the judge in Bastrop refused to stay the execution for a hearing so that the evidence could be presented and studied and Texas could avoid the charade this time.

Ho, hum.

But no, wait.  

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the fucking Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, called a halt.

It wasn't unanimous, of course.  I mean, Sharon Keller, she who - aw hell you can read about it (and her) if you follow the links (here) - voted to get on with the killing.  But she's said before that innocence shouldn't be an impediment.  (Really, like I say, follow the links.)

But still.

“The family is overjoyed, we’re happy beyond belief, but at the same time that it’s a major victory, it is just a step towards where we’re trying to go,” Reed’s brother, Rodrick, told the Guardian. They're expecting a new trial and exoneration.

Which is terrific, of course.  But it won't  bring back those 19 years Reed's lost.  Won't undo the fear and desperation and loneliness and horror and indignity.  Won't  stop some folks from thinking he's guilty.  Won't give him back his life.  And won't do shit for Stacey Stites who's still dead and who's likely killer still hasn't been charged.

On the other hand, Sharon Keller may be pissed, which isn't altogether a bad thing.

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