Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, T.I. and more call on Texas governor to halt Rodney Reed's execution
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Rihanna, Kim KardashianKimberly (Kim) Noel Kardashian WestPrison to proprietorship: The path to real second chances Kanye West performs for Texas inmates Texas court grants indefinite stay on Rodney Reed execution MORE, Questlove and T.I. are joining a growing number of celebrities who are calling on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to stop the execution of Rodney Reed, following the emergence of new evidence his legal team says exonerates him.

“One Click!!! SIGN this petition if you don’t believe the Government should kill an innocent man!!!” Rihanna tweeted Monday, linking to a petition that has gathered more than a million signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.

Other celebrities have also made similar calls for their followers to do the same on Twitter.

The petition calls on Abbott to stop Reed’s execution, which is scheduled for Nov. 20, citing new evidence in the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites — a crime Reed, who is black, has been serving a death sentence for since he was convicted by an all-white jury in 1998, according to CBS News.

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The Texas Department of Criminal Justice said Reed “strangled and killed” Stites on the night of April 23, 1996, during an aggravated sexual assault. According to the agency, Reed, who was 28 at the time of the offense, was also identified by DNA taken from the scene of the crime. 

However, his case has gotten widespread attention recently after his attorneys filed an application for clemency.

The lawyers wrote in the request that newly discovered evidence has “contradicted and, in all key respects, affirmatively disproven, every aspect of the State’s expert-based case against Mr. Reed” and implicates Stites’s fiancé, Jimmy Fennell, in her murder instead.

Reed’s legal team points to an affidavit recently filed by an inmate who served time with Fennell. According to the court document, Fennell, a local police officer, whom Reed’s lawyers noted “was initially the prime suspect in Ms. Stites’ murder,” had served a 10-year prison sentence “for kidnapping and raping a woman while he was in uniform.” The crime reportedly occurred sometime after the death of Stites. 

The lawyers wrote that an inmate who allegedly served with Fennell, Arthur Snow, whom they note is a former leader of a white supremacist prison gang, came forward “with information that Fennell complained that his fiancée ‘had been sleeping around with a black man behind his back’ and that he had to kill his ‘n----- loving fiancée.’ ”

“In past two days, undersigned counsel have confirmed that Snow and Fennell were both housed at the same prison during the relevant time period, and we are seeking to obtain additional documentation that will further corroborate Snow’s statement,” Reed’s legal team added.

Reed’s lawyers also pointed to the testimony of the medical examiner who conducted Stites’s autopsy and noted he has since “recanted much of his trial testimony.”

During Reed’s 1998 trial, the lawyers wrote that former Travis County Medical Examiner Roberto Bayardo testified that Reed’s semen was left “quite recently” and supported the prosecutors’ theory that “Reed sexually assaulted Ms. Stites contemporaneous with her murder.” 

“He has now retracted that opinion,” Reed’s legal team wrote, adding that Bayardo "now admits that the forensic evidence suggests consensual intercourse between Mr. Reed and Ms. Stites more than 24 hours before her death — which is consistent with Mr. Reed’s account of his last meeting with Ms. Stites.”

The request, which was filed by Reed’s legal team with the help of the Innocence Project, asks that Abbott commute Reed’s death sentence to ensure that he “is not executed for a crime he did not commit.” His attorneys also ask that Reed, who has maintained his innocence since his conviction, be granted a “reprieve of 120 days so that all of the evidence—including new information discovered in the past few weeks—can be fully investigated in an orderly manner to ensure a just and accurate result.”

"Mr. Reed asks only for commutation to a life sentence, and not a pardon, because he wishes to have his conviction overturned in court and to be vindicated at a fair trial in which a jury of his peers considers all of the evidence he now presents to this Board," Reed's lawyers wrote.

The new developments in the case have prompted a bipartisan group of Texas state lawmakers to call on Abbott to stay Reed’s execution and grant him a reprieve so that new leads can be fully explored. 

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In a letter sent to Abbott on Tuesday, the lawmakers wrote that “the case that put Mr. Reed on death row has been called into serious question by compelling new witness statements and forensic evidence along with evidentiary gaps that could be filled with additional investigation and testing.”

“Killing Rodney Reed without certainty about his guilt may exacerbate that issue and erode public trust—not only in capital punishment, but in Texas justice itself,” they also wrote, adding: “Only then should our justice system proceed, one way or the other, with decisions that cannot be undone.”