Rodney Reed was scheduled to be executed in four days by the state of Texas. Thankfully, the execution has been put on hold. However, the state of Georgia executed Ray Jefferson Cromartie, despite him maintaining his innocence and DNA evidence.
Cromartue, 54, was executed by lethal injection on Wednesday, Nov. 13 despite “appeals involving pleas for new DNA testing and a witness’s claim that a different man confessed,” according to CNN.
Cromartie’s attorney Shawn Nolan said in a statement, “In this day and age, where DNA testing is routine, it is shocking that Georgia decided to end this man’s life without allowing us, his attorneys, access to the materials to do these simple tests.”
Cromartie was accused of killing and shooting convenience store clerk Richard Slysz during a store robbery in April of 1994. He was involved in the robbery but he maintains he did not shoot Slysz, which witnesses have also confirmed.
The victim’s daughter Elizabeth Legette supported Cromartie’s request for DNA testing and said in statement, “In the course of the past few months, I have not been treated with fairness, dignity, or respect, and people in power have refused to listen to what I had to say. I believe this was, in part, because I was not saying what I was expected to say as a victim.”
Across the country in Georgia, Reed’s execution has been put on hold after a unanimous vote from the state parole board. Reed’s attorney Bryce Benjet, of the Innocence Project, said in a statement, “We are extremely relieved and thankful that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) has issued a stay of execution for our client Rodney Reed. This opportunity will allow for proper consideration of the powerful and mounting new evidence of Mr. Reed’s innocence.”
The state parole board recommended that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott delay the execution for 120 days.
In 1996, 19-year-old Stacey Stites was murdered. By 1998, Rodney Reed, who was 28 at the time, was convicted of murder. Her body was found in Bastrop, Texas on the side of the road.
Reed was tied to the murder because his DNA was found in Stites’s vaginal cavity. However, Reed was having an affair with Stites, who was engaged to police officer Jimmy Fennel. A former co-worker of Stites confirmed the affair.
There are many discrepancies in the case. According to the Innocence Project a team of renowned forensic DNA experts have concluded that it is “medically and scientifically impossible for Reed to be guilty.”
The advocacy group reports, “The prosecution’s only forensic evidence linking Reed to the crime was semen taken from Stites’s body, which was attributed to the consensual relationship between them. The prosecution used this to connect him to the murder and refute this consensual romantic relationship, but supporting testimony has since been recanted and completely discredits the state’s case.”
In addition, for months, Jimmy Fennel was considered the main suspect and would later go to prison for 10 years for kidnap and sexual assault. The police stopped investigating him when they found Reed’s DNA in Stites vaginal activity — again, his DNA wasn’t found anywhere else that would indicate a murder. Fennel also gave conflicting accounts of where he was the night of Stites’s murder.
In addition, the murder weapon, which was a belt, was never tested for DNA evidence. Requests for DNA testing of crime scene evidence “has been repeatedly denied by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. In 2018, the United States Supreme Court declined to directly review the Texas courts’ denial of DNA testing.”
Reed was also convicted by an all-white jury. If you are outraged by this story, there is still time to sign the petition here.
Reed also did an interview with Dr. Phil.