- Celebrities, criminal justice reform advocates, lawmakers, and internet users are asking Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to stop the execution of Rodney Reed, who is scheduled to be executed on Nov. 20 for a crime he says he did not commit.
- Several people have come forward with new testimony pointing to another suspect in the murder case, throwing Reed’s conviction into doubt.
- Some believe it is unlikely that Abbott will grant a stay of execution, which he has done only once while in office, while others say the wave of social media support may work in Reed’s favor.
Rodney Reed’s Conviction
Celebrities and social media users have been spreading awareness about the case of Rodney Reed, a 51-year-old man who is scheduled to be executed later this month for a crime he says he did not commit.
Reed has been on death row for about two decades for the murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites. But now, a person named Arthur Snow has come forward claiming that it was the victim’s fiancé, a former police officer, who committed the crime – not Reed.
In 1996, Stites was found dead in a wooded area in Bastrop, Texas after having been assaulted, raped, and strangled. Police initially questioned her then-fiancé Jimmy Fennel after suspecting that he may have been responsible for the crime. Fennell failed two lie detector tests administered by police, but the DNA on Stites’s body did not match his.
That’s when the investigation shifted towards Rodney Reed, whose DNA was found to be a match. Reed admitted having a sexual relationship with Stites behind Fennell’s back but maintained his innocence in relation to her death.
Reed was eventually tried and sentenced to death after he was found guilty of murder. He is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Nov. 20.
New Testimony Casts Doubts About Conviction
Reed’s case has received a new wave of attention from internet users who are pleading for his execution to be stopped.
On October 30, Reed’s lawyers and the criminal justice reform nonprofit the Innocence Project filed an application for clemency with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles following the sworn affidavit of Arthur Snow a day prior. Snow says that in 2010, Fennell confessed to the murder when the two were serving time behind bars together at a DeWitt County, Texas, prison.
According to the affidavit, Fennell was in the facility on a rape conviction after assaulting a woman while on duty in 2007. He was seeking protection from the Aryan Brotherhood and went to Snow, a brotherhood member, for help. Snow says he confessed to the crime as a way to build trust.
“Toward the end of the conversation, Jimmy said confidently, ‘I had to kill my n*-loving fiancé,’” Snow wrote in the affidavit. Snow said he decided to come forward when he realized that Reed was serving time for Stites’s murder after reading an article about him.
However, Snow isn’t the only person who has pointed the finger at Fennell. Aside from Snow’s testimony, the Innocence Project lawyers say others have come forward with similar stories around Fennell and his anger towards his fiance, who he suspected was having an affair with a black man.
A former insurance sales representative said he had heard Fennell say he would kill Stites if he caught her “messing around.” Charles W. Fletcher, a former friend of the couple, said Fennell had complained that Stites was cheating on him. Jim Clampit, a former sheriff’s deputy, said that at Stites’ funeral, Fennell looked at her body and said, “You got what you deserved.”
At the time of Reed’s trial, no witnesses could corroborate his affair with Stites, which would have explained his DNA’s presence. Now, the victim’s cousin and coworker have both said the two were involved, according to the Innocence Project.
One of Stites’s co-workers, Alicia Slater, said Stites told her she “was sleeping with a black guy named Rodney and that she didn’t know what her fiancé would do if he found out.”
Stites’ cousin, Heather Stobbs, says she now feels Reed was wrongly convicted and possibly even framed. She told a Fox affiliate in Austin that she has no doubt in her mind that Fennell committed the murder.
The Innocence Project also claims that there were forensic issues with the investigation regarding the timeline of events. They also point to the fact that Reed was convicted by an all-white jury as an issue and have pushed for the murder weapon, Stites’ belt, to be tested for DNA evidence.
Reed’s lawyers say he is only asking for a commutation of his life sentence, 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.”
Meanwhile, Fennell’s attorneys responded to Snow’s claims by calling him a career criminal. They also noted that after Fennell’s release from prison, he converted to Christianity and has been helping people battling drug addictions.
His attorney, Robert Phillips, said the allegations that his client is the true killer is “laughably untrue.” He said the evidence against Reed is strong and pointed to testimony from other women who said they had been victimized by him in other sexual assaults that were never tried in court.
However, Reed has repeatedly denied being involved in the other sexual assaults. His lawyers say Phillips and the state are focusing on those incidents “because there’s no evidence actually supporting Rodney’s guilt.”
Celebs and Social Media Users Call for Action
The calls for his case to be relooked at have picked up heavily over the past few weeks. A Change.org petition had nearly 300,000 signatures as of Wednesday morning, asking for a new trial and a stop of his execution.
On Saturday, nearly 100 supporters gathered outside the capitol building in Austin, Texas to urge Gov. Greg Abbott to grant Reed clemency.
Before Snow came forward last week, Kardashian-West called on people to put pressure on Abbott
“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,” she wrote.
TV host Dr.Phil McGraw, who has also posted frequently about the case and covered it on his show, said, “I don’t think it’s a question of whether he’s guilty or not guilty. I think the question is whether he had a full trial, with a full airing of all the evidence. I think the answer to that question, in my opinion, is not just no, but hell, no.”
Over the weekend, celebrities like Rihanna and Meek Mill tweeted a link to a petition to free Reed which currently has over 1.5 million signatures.
Similar support was shared by LL Cool J, T.I. Questlove, Eric Andre, Pusha T, Gigi Hadid, Yara Shahidi, Janelle Monáe, and others.
Then, in a letter sent to Abbott on Tuesday, 26 Texas 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.”
Can the Governor Stop Reed’s Execution?
The urgency around Reed’s case has continued to grow, but it remains to be seen if advocates and celebs have actually had any influence on Abbott. The Texas governor has the power to stay the execution for 30 days and order the state’s Board of Pardons and Paroles to investigate the possibility of commuting his sentence.
But some call the move unlikely since people are rarely granted clemency in Texas if they’ve been convicted of a felony or violent crime. According to the Texas Tribune, the governor has stopped just one execution in nearly five years in office.
Still, others say that the social media support might work in Reed’s favor, since similar calls for action lead to the release of Alice Johnson, a great-grandmother who was serving a life sentence for a first-time nonviolent drug offense, and Cyntoia Brown, an alleged victim of sex trafficking who was given a life sentence killing a man when she was 16.
“Whether you agree with the death penalty or not, I think everybody agrees that at least we ought to be executing people who actually committed the crime,” said Bryce Benjet, a senior attorney at the Innocence Project who has represented Reed for 12 years. “And I think that everybody recognizes the kind of damage that an execution in a case like this would do to the integrity of our system.”
As of now, the offices of the governor and the attorney general have not issued formal statements about the case.
Privacy Concerns Rise in Florida Over Menstruation Questions on Digital Student-Athlete Physicals
Ever since the overturn of Roe V. Wade, activists have been concerned about how period tracking data can be used against women.
Outrage and Concerns
Florida schools require student-athletes to complete an annual physical evaluation form before being allowed to participate in sports, including questions about female menstruation. Recently, school districts have shifted these forms into a digital format using a third party, causing privacy concerns for parents and activists alike.
As headlines started to circulate the news, many online began expressing outrage. Lawyer Pam Keith, who ran for U.S. House of Representatives in 2020 referred to Florida as a “police state for women” on Tuesday morning. Other tweets have called this practice “dystopian” and “tramping on women’s rights.”
In Florida, these questions have been on the student-athlete physical evaluation form for approximately 20 years. Now that some school districts have shifted from paper copies to digital formatting with the third-party software company, Aktivate, criticisms have resurfaced across the state. Abortion rights activists, in particular, are worried about menstrual information being used to prosecute someone for getting an abortion. Others vocally oppose storing this information online, citing parents’ rights over their children’s data.
These questions relating to menstruation are labeled as optional on the document. However, some have expressed concern that athletes will feel obligated to answer them in order to ensure their eligibility to play.
Florida schools have all of the medical data collected by these physicals sent back to the district from the physician. This is in sharp contrast to the policy of other states that simply require the physician’s approval for the athlete to be cleared to play.
“I don’t see why school districts need that access to that type of information,” pediatrician Dr. Michael Haller said to The Florida Times-Union. “It sure as hell will give me pause to fill it out with my kid.”
See what others are saying: (Forbes) (The Palm Beach Post) (The Florida Times-Union)
Navy SEAL Recruits Sprayed With Tear Gas in “Horrific” Leaked Video
The revelation comes after the Navy launched an investigation into SEAL training practices last month in response to the death of a recruit.
The Worst Birthday Ever
In September 2021, Navy SEAL recruits were forced to sing “happy birthday” while standing amid a thick cloud of tear gas as part of their training, a leaked video reveals.
The footage, which was obtained by investigative reporter Mathew Cole and published by CBS News, comes from California’s San Clemente Island, where SEALs are trained.
For over a minute, instructors are seen dousing the recruits in the chemical, sometimes from just inches away, as they struggle to sing. Reports say they were singing so that they could not hold their breath, which regulations incidentally warn may cause a person to pass out.
Although exposure to tear gas is a common right of passage for military recruits, who must learn how to properly don a face mask, it is meant to be sprayed from six feet away to prevent burns and last for no longer than 15 seconds.
The recruits in the video are seen coughing, heaving, and crying out in agony after the gas subsides, and one appears to pass out.
A Navy admiral has reportedly launched an investigation into the video to determine whether the instructors sprayed the gas for too long and from too close, and if they did, whether they were simply unaware of the proper procedure or intended to abuse and punish the recruits, which could be a criminal offense.
Cole wrote in a Twitter thread that he showed the footage to current and retired senior SEAL officers, who described the exercise as “horrific,” “abusive,” “pointless” and “near torture.”
“Current and former SEAL students say they were told the purpose of the exercise, which cause extreme pain, was to simulate how they would react to bullet wounds in combat,” he said. “They were told by BUD/S instructors it was a ‘rite of passage’ and given three attempts to complete it.”
The Death of Kyle Mullen
“The source who provided the video did so because they wanted the Navy, Congress and the public to know that the February 2022 death of Kyle Mullen was not an isolated incident,” Cole Continued.
Mullen was a 24-year-old Navy recruit who arrived in California for the SEALs rigorous selection course in January. In his third week, he reached what’s known as Hell Week, a five-day-long slog through an infamously brutal training regiment that’s killed at least 11 men since 1953.
Trainees spend at least 20 hours per day doing physical exercises, running a total of more than 200 miles, and are allowed just four hours of sleep across the entire week.
Hell Week is meant to test a recruit’s mental and physical resilience, as well as their commitment to becoming a Navy SEAL. Critics, however, argue it is excessively harsh, pointing to the concussions, broken bones, dangerous infections, and near drownings suffered by some recruits.
When Mullen completed Hell Week, he called his mother Regina, who told CBS News her son seemed to be having trouble breathing.
A few hours later, he died with the official cause being pneumonia, which Regina attributed to the freezing water he was submerged in during training.
She also said he admitted to using banned performance-enhancing drugs, something many aspiring SEALs resort to so they can cross the finish line.
Even with drugs, however, around 90% of trainees fail to complete the selection course, with most dropping out during Hell Week.
The same day Kyle died, one of his fellow trainees had to be intubated, and two more were hospitalized.
The Navy launched an investigation into the SEALs selection course last month in response to Kyle’s death.
See what others are saying: (CBS) (NBC) (The New York Times)
Lawyer Claims That LAPD Officer Who Died In Training Was Targeted For Investigating Other Officers For Rape
The late officer’s family has filed a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles.
Press Conference Reveals New Allegations
A lawyer for the family of Los Angeles Police officer Houston Tipping, who died in May during a training exercise, claimed on Monday that Tipping was targeted for reporting an alleged sexual assault by four other police officers last year.
In May, Tipping sustained serious injury — including a broken spine — during training, which resulted in his death three days later. The LAPD released a statement saying his injuries came from a fall taken during a segment of training that involved grappling another officer.
His family, however, filed a complaint — and later a lawsuit — against the city of Los Angeles. The lawsuit states that Tipping was, “repeatedly struck in the head severely enough that he bled.”
During a Monday press conference, his family’s lawyer, Bradley Gage, claimed that the injuries Tipping sustained could not have been the result of grappling.
“There is no way grappling would have caused those kinds of injuries the way the LAPD portrays it,” he said. “What would cause those injuries is if somebody picked a person up, slams them down onto their head and their neck onto a hard surface.”
An Alleged Cover-Up
According to Gage, an officer that Tipping had reported last year for an alleged sexual assault was also present at this training exercise.
“The allegation is that in July of 2021, four police officers were involved in the sexual assault of a woman from the Los Angeles area. A report was taken by Officer Tipping,” he said. “And the female victim claimed that she was raped by four different people, all LAPD officers. She knew the names of some of those officers because they were in uniform and had their name tags on. The name of one of those officers, with the name tag, seems to correlate with the names of one of the officers that was at the bicycle training”
The attorney went on to confirm that he is alleging this unnamed officer is responsible for Tipping’s injuries.
Later in the press conference, Gage stated that the police department is likely trying to cover-up these misdeeds.
“I’m sure that these actions are being covered-up. The thought of a code of silence or a cover-up by a police department should not be shocking or surprising to anyone,” he said.
Although the initial lawsuit by Tipping’s family included the wrongful death and other civil rights violations, with this new information, the family and the attorney has decided to file a supplemental. This supplemental will cover the whistler blower retaliation, destruction of evidence, and the initial wrongdoing of the rape case.