"Celebrities Go to Bat for Man Sentenced to Die," read Newser's own headline in 2019. Now, defense lawyers are getting the chance to go to bat for Rodney Reed. The Black man was sentenced to die for the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites in Bastrop, Texas, but Texas' top appeals court halted his execution just days before it was to take place in November 2019. CBS News reports that court sent the case back to trial court, where a two-week evidentiary hearing began on Monday that will see defense attorneys ask for a new trial. Their case, per KXAN: that Reed is innocent, that the state didn't hand over all exculpatory evidence, and that the prosecutors gave false testimony. Reed has maintained that he was having an affair with Stites, 19, and had consensual sex with her the day prior to her death.
His lawyers say the quantity of Reed's sperm detected in Stites' body syncs with that timeline, and that prosecutors withheld witness statements that supported Reed's claim the two were in a consensual relationship. At the original trial, prosecutors said there was no such relationship. They originally made the case that Stites was at home with her fiance, Jimmy Fennell, before leaving for work, and that Reed stopped her on the drive and raped and killed her. Reed's defense has argued that Stites was murdered by Fennell. Fennell, a former cop who served time for an unrelated sexual crime, will be called to testify. The Marshall Project reports that in 2019 an inmate signed an affidavit stating that sometime around 2010 Fennell confessed to him that he killed "my n----- loving fiancee." (Read more death row stories.)