Thursday, January 15, 2009

CCA denies another appeal by Rodney Reed

Chuck Lindell of Austin-American Statesman is reporting that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has denied a request for new trial by Rodney Reed.

The state’s highest criminal court today refused to grant a new trial to Rodney Reed, sentenced to death a decade ago in the Bastrop County murder and sexual assault of Stacey Stites, 19.

In December, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a 100-page opinion concluding that new information raised by Reed failed to establish his innocence and could not have swayed jurors to vote for his innocence if presented at trial.

Today’s rulings denied two remaining state appeals by Reed, presumably clearing way for his case to proceed to the next level of review in the federal courts.

But one of Reed’s appellate lawyers, Bryce Benjet, said he hopes to file another state appeal containing more information about “incidents of misconduct” by Stites’ fiance, Jimmy Fennell, a former police officer serving a prison sentence for kidnapping and improper sexual activity with a woman in his custody.

“We believe this also needs to be presented to the Court of Criminal Appeals. We are preparing that, and it will be filed shortly,” Benjet said.

Reed alleges that Fennell could have killed Stites. Fennell has consistently denied the allegation.

In one appeal denied Wednesday, Reed accused prosecutors of suppressing evidence that Fennell abused and stalked an ex-girlfriend. The information, Reed argued, supports his theory that Fennell murdered Stites — a theory the Court of Criminal Appeals found unconvincing in its December opinion.

The court ruled today, however, that the information from Fennell’s ex-girlfriend should have been raised in Reed’s first appeal. Because it was not, it is ineligible to be raised at a later date, the court said in an unsigned opinion.

Reed’s second pending appeal, claiming to contain evidence of Reed’s innocence, also was denied.

“The totality of the evidence before us still supports a guilty verdict,” the court ruled.

Both appeals are addressed in a single ruling, available here.

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