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Kim Kardashian And Meek Mill Trying To Free Texas Prisoner Rodney Reed Before Execution

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Who Is Rodney Reed? New Details On Texas Prisoner Kim Kardashian And Meek Mill Trying To Free

One of the strongest arguments against the death penalty is the possibility that people can be executed for crimes they did not commit. In the case of Rodney Reed in Texas, that is just what his lawyers and supporters say is going to happen later this month.

Reed was convicted of the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites in Texas based on DNA evidence that proved he had sex with Stites. He claimed their relationship was consensual and he did not kill her. The jury didn't believe him and he was sentenced to death for the crime. 

Now, with his execution only days away, attorneys for Reed say there is new evidence that should be considered before the state kills him. The case has drawn the attention of high profile criminal justice reform advocates like Kim Kardashian West and Meek Mill. 

Who is Rodney Reed? Keep reading for the details. 

1. The murder of Stacey Stites

Stacey Stites was living in Giddings, Texas with her finacé Jimmy Fennell in 1996, the Austin Chronicle reports. She was 19 years old at the time. On April 23rd, she woke up for her early morning shift at a grocery store in the nearby town of Bastrop and left in Fennell's truck to get to work. She never arrived at work and the truck was found abandoned in the Bastrop High School parking lot. Hours later, a passerby found her body in a wooded area seven miles outside Bastrop city limits. Stites was half-dressed with ligature marks around her neck when she was found. Police determined that she had been strangled with her own belt. 

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2. The original suspect

Police spent a year investigating the crime and trying to determine who murdered Stacey. They interviewed dozens of potential suspects but they kept coming back to Jimmy Fennell. They interviewed him a number of times and even gave him two separate polygraph tests. He failed them both. But in the end, they didn't have any physical evidence linking him to the crime. Not only that, there was semen found in Stite's body that was not Fennell's. 

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3. Rodney Reed convicted

Police tested the semen found on Stites' body and discovered it matched Rodney Reed. Reed had several prior arrests for sexual assault, though he was only charged once and acquitted at trial. He claimed that he and Stacey were having a consensual relationship and she was planning to leave Fennell. ABC reports that, even now, all these years later, Reed still maintains that story. "We had a relationship,” Reed said. “She wasn’t going to marry Jimmy. I don’t think she loved him.” But the DNA evidence was compelling to the jury. He was convicted and sentenced to death. 

Thousands are advocating for a new trial for Reed.

4. New evidence comes to light

With only weeks before his scheduled execution, Reed's attorneys are still working to save is life. The Innocence Project, a non-profit dedicated to exonerating wrongly convicted prisoners has been petitioning for DNA testing of the murder weapon to see if there is additional evidence that could point to a murderer other than Reed. The Austin Chronicle details that there were more than 10 people who confirmed in an interview or via affidavit that they knew about Reed and Stites's relationship while it was happening, though only two of them were called at trial. There was also DNA testing done on beer cans found near Stacey's body that matched to friends of Fennell's; that evidence was never given to the defense team during the trial. When lawyers learned of it in 2002 and petitioned for a new trial, the court denied the request.

In the years since the trial, various experts have changed their minds about the case. The Innocence Project says three forensics experts who testified have admitted mistakes in calculating the time of death, which changes the timeline for the crime. Additionally, friends of Fennell's have changed their story about Fennell's alibi during the period when Stacey was killed. All of the new evidence and questions lead many to believe Reed deserves a new trial. 

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5. Fennell confessed to the crimes

Fennell didn't just go about his life in the years since his one-time finacé was murdered. In 2007, he was convicted of kidnapping and raping a woman. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the crime and was released on parole in 2008, according to KXAN. While he was in prison, he apparently allied himself with members of the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist prison gang. In an attempt to gain the trust of a Brotherhood member named Arthur Snow, and probably to prove his own racism, Fennell told Snow he had killed Stites because she was cheating on him with a Black man. Rolling Stone reports Snow confirmed that information an affidavit. “Jimmy said his fiancé had been sleeping around with a black man behind his back. Toward the end of the conversation Jimmy said confidently, ‘I had to kill my n****r- loving fiancé,'” Snow wrote.

6. Trying to exonerate Reed 

The case has drawn high profile attention as the execution date gets closer. Kim Kardashian West, who has been an outspoken advocate for criminal justice reform, tweeted to the Governor of Texas about the case saying: "PLEASE @GovAbbott How can you execute a man when since his trial, substantial evidence that would exonerate Rodney Reed has come forward and even implicates the other person of interest. I URGE YOU TO DO THE RIGHT THING." Meek Mill raised the issue on Twitter as well, posting: "16 days left and he will be executed for a crime he didn’t commit...get more info here! #freerodneyreed." He also shared a link to freerodneyreed.com.

Meek Mill wants Reed released.

Authorities in Texas have so far been resistant to any suggestion that Reed was wrongfully convicted. Prosecutor Lisa Tanner told ABC News that she is still sure “the right man has been convicted beyond a reasonable doubt of Stacey Stites’ murder.”

Reed's team just wants him to live long enough to the state to agree to take a second look at the case. “We certainly think that somebody should stay this execution, and give us an opportunity to present this evidence in an orderly way,” says Reed's attorney Bryce Benjet. 

Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. Her work has been seen at Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. She is the creator of the blog Stay at Home Pundit and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.