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Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, and Other Celebs Urge Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to Stop Rodney Reed’s Execution

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  • 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.”

Fennell Responds

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. 

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (Fox News

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Veteran Burial Problem: Why Veteran Cemeteries Are Running Out of Space & What’s Next

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Over the last few decades, veteran cemeteries throughout the US have been facing an ongoing problem — they’ve been running out of space. In an effort to address this, the US Department of Veterans Affairs, specifically the National Cemetery Administration, has been working to acquire new land to expand current national cemeteries and establish new ones.

They’ve also launched the Urban Initiative and the Rural Initiative in order to improve accessibility for veterans living in densely populated cities and in more rural parts of the country, respectively. But the challenges don’t end there. As it stands, national cemeteries are still at risk of running out of room within the next twenty to thirty years. And as a result, new changes are being proposed; changes that would impact eligibility requirements and potentially limit which veterans can and cannot be buried below ground. Watch the video to find out more.

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BART Apologizes After a Man Was Handcuffed for Eating a Sandwich on a Train Platform

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  • Protestors have staged “eat ins” and spoken out on social media in support of a BART rider who was handcuffed and cited for eating a sandwich on a train platform, a violation of CA law. 
  • BART’s General Manager noted that the man refused to provide identification, and “cursed at and made homophobic slurs at the officer who remained calm throughout the entire engagement.”
  • But still, the official apologized to the rider and said the transit agency’s independent police auditor is investigating the incident.

Viral Video 

A transit official in California’s Bay Area apologized Monday after a video showed a man waiting to catch a train being handcuffed and cited for eating a breakfast sandwich on the station platform. 

In a now-viral video posted to Facebook Friday, a police officer is seen detaining a man who has since been identified as 31-year-old Steve Foster. Foster was heading to work around 8 a.m. on Nov. 4 when an officer stopped to tell him he was breaking the law by eating on the platform.

According to Bay Area Transit Authority (BART) General Manager Bob Powers, before the video starts, the officer asked the passenger not to eat and decided to move forward with a citation when he continued to do so. 

The video shows the officer holding onto Foster’s backpack as the two argue. “You are detained and you’re not free to go,” the officer says.

“You came up here and fucked with me,” Foster responds. “You singled me out, out of all these people.”

“You’re eating,” the officer says.

“Yeah, so what,” Foster responds.

“It’s against the law,” the officer says. “I tried to explain that to you. It’s a violation of California law. I have the right to detain you.”

The officer threatens to send Foster to jail for resisting arrest and eventually calls for backup. Foster’s friend, who filmed the encounter, tells the officer that there are no signs in the station that say passengers can’t eat on the platform. 

“Why is there a store downstairs selling food if we’re not allowed to eat up here?” she says. 

“Where is the sign up here that says we can’t eat on the platform? We know we can’t eat on the train.”  

Foster continues to eat and tell the officer he does this every morning. The officer continues to hold onto the backpack to detain Foster for refusing to give his name. Foster becomes more frustrated and throws profanities at him.

“You don’t get no pussy at home. I know you ain’t. When was the last time you got your dick sucked? I know it’s been a while,” Foster tells the officer before asking him to call his supervisor.

“I just missed two trains because of your fa**ot ass. You fucking fa*. Ask your momma what my name is,” he also tells the officer. 

“Show me a sign where it says I cant eat on the platform,” Foster says, but before the officer can respond he shouts in his face. “Shut up n***a. You ain’t got shit to say and now you feel stupid n***a…You nerd. You fucking nerd. Let my bag go.” 

After a few minutes, three other officers arrive and handcuff Foster before walking him down the platform and through the station. One of the officers then tells him he is being held because he matches the description of someone who was creating a disturbance on the platform. 

In a second video, the officer tells Foster’s friend he was initially responding to a report of a possibly intoxicated woman on the platform, whom he never found. That’s when he spotted Foster and let him know there is no eating on BART. He also tells the friend there are in fact signs that say there is no eating in the paid area of BART.

Foster was given a citation for the infraction and released after providing his name to the police. 

Reactions

After the footage circulated across social media, (in some cases, shorter edited clips) many users and BART riders expressed their frustration.

The incident even sparked protests and “eat ins” over the weekend, with more scheduled to continue. One Facebook event for this coming Saturday is called “Eat a McMuffin on BART: They Can’t Stop Us All.” 

According to BART Communications Director Alicia Trost, eating is prohibited in the “paid area” of the transit stations, meaning once passengers pass through the ticketing gate. The specific California law is PC 640 (b) (1): “Eating or drinking in or on a system facility or vehicle in areas where those activities are prohibited by that system.”

Though many social media users thought Foster was arrested for the incident, the BART spokesperson clarified that he was only issued a citation for eating. The spokesperson said Foster was “lawfully handcuffed when he refused to provide his identification,” and added that “the court will determine level of fine he should pay.”

Similar statements were provided on social media to users who had questions about the situation.

BART Apology 

In his Monday statement, General Manager Powers said, “As a transportation system, our concern with eating is related to the cleanliness of our stations and system.”

“This was not the case in the incident at Pleasant Hill station on Monday,” he continued. 

He noted that Foster, “refused to provide identification, cursed at and made homophobic slurs at the officer who remained calm through out the entire engagement,” but added that context of the situation was important. 

The officer was doing his job but context is key. Enforcement of infractions such as eating and drinking inside our paid area should not be used to prevent us from delivering on our mission to provide safe, reliable, and clean transportation. We have to read each situation and allow people to get where they are going on time and safely.”

“I’m disappointed [by] how the situation unfolded. I apologize to Mr. Foster, our riders, employees, and the public who have had an emotional reaction to the video,” he added.

In response to the statement, Foster told KGO–TV “I’m definitely upset, mad, a little frustrated, angry about it.”

“I hope they start focusing on stuff that actually matters like people shooting up dope, hopping the BART, people getting stabbed.” He also told other news outlets that he believes he was singled out because of his race and want the officer who cuffed him to be disciplined.

Foster said he is looking into his legal options as of now. According to Powers, the transit agency’s independent police auditor is investigating the incident.

See what others are saying: (Fox News) (NBC Bay Area) (CNN)

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ABC News Defends Its Epstein Coverage After Anchor Blasts the Network in Leaked Video

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  • In video leaked by Project Veritas, ABC anchor Amy Robach is seen criticizing the network for not airing a 2015 interview with one of Jeffrey Epstein’s most prominent accusers, Virginia Roberts Giuffre.
  • “She told me everything,” Robach said in the video. “She had pictures, she had everything. She was in hiding for 12 years. We convinced her to come out. We convinced her to talk to us. It was unbelievable what we had.”
  • Both ABC and Robach now say the network, at the time, could not corroborate the evidence presented in the interview but continued to investigate and report on Epstein.

Project Veritas Leak

ABC News is defending its decision to not air a 2015 interview with a prominent accuser of Jeffrey Epstein after a leaked video showed anchor Amy Robach blasting the network for the decision.

In the video leaked Tuesday by the right-wing activist group Project Veritas, Robach — caught on a hot mic — told an off-camera employee about how she had worked for three years to convince ABC to air the interview with Virginia Giuffre, then Virginia Roberts.

“She told me everything,” Robach said. “She had pictures, she had everything. She was in hiding for 12 years. We convinced her to come out. We convinced her to talk to us. It was unbelievable what we had: Clinton, we had everything. I tried for three years to get it on to no avail and now it’s all coming out and its like these new revelations and I freaking had all of it. I’m so pissed right now. Like, every day I get more and more pissed, ’cause I’m just like, ‘Oh my God! It was — what we had, was unreal.’”

The same year as her interview with ABC, Giuffre filed a civil lawsuit against Epstein claiming that he had held her as a teenage sex slave. She also claimed that, among other people, Epstein trafficked her to the United Kingdom’s Prince Andrew.

Following the accusation, both Prince Andrew and Buckingham Palace denied the claim, calling it “false” and “without foundation;” however, the two are known to have met at some point, with a photo showing Prince Andrew and a then-17-year-old Giuffre side-by-side. In the photo, the prince holds her midriff while she wears a crop top.

Source: Florida Southern District Court

In fact, in her castigation of ABC’s handling of the interview, Robach references the situation with Prince Andrew. 

“First of all, I was told, ‘Who was Jeffrey Epstein? No one knows who that is. This is a stupid story,’” she said. “Then the palace found out that we had her whole allegations about Prince Andrew and threatened us a million different ways. We were so afraid we wouldn’t be able to interview Kate and Will that we, that also quashed the story.”

The video was reportedly recorded in August, two days after NPR published a story where Giuffre told the outlet that she had spoken with ABC in 2015 but had never been told why the story didn’t air. She said, at the time, she had viewed the ABC interview as a “potential game-changer.”

“Appearing on ABC with its wide viewership would have been the first time for me to speak out against the government for basically looking the other way and to describe the anger and betrayal victims felt,” she told NPR.

Robach and ABC Exec Responds

By Tuesday evening, both ABC and Robach confirmed the footage to be real and explained why the interview never aired. According to Executive Vice President John Rouse, the network had been unable to corroborate the details of Giuffre’s claims, so it chose not to air the piece.

Notably, Rouse also said ABC never stopped investigating Epstein, which is true. The network has repeatedly published or aired stories regarding Epstein since Giuffree filed her lawsuit against him in 2015. Despite never broadcasting her interview, in July, Nightline aired an interview with two other alleged Epstein victims.

In another statement sent out by ABC, Robach backtracked from the comments she made in the leaked video.

“I was caught in a private moment of frustration,” she said. “I was upset that an important interview I had conducted with Virginia Roberts didn’t air.”

Like Rouse, she then said the interview did not meet ABC’s editorial standards. 

“My comments about Prince Andrew and her allegation that she had seen Bill Clinton on Epstein’s private island were in reference to what Virginia Roberts said in that interview in 2015,” she adds. “I was referencing her allegations — not what ABC News had verified through our reporting.”

“In the years since, no one ever told me or the team to stop reporting on Jeffrey Epstein, and we have continued to aggressively pursue this important story,” she ends the statement. 

Epstein’s Lawyer Calls ABC About the Interview

NPR’s August interview with Giuffe, however, also reveals another incident involving that 2015 interview. 

After receiving word that ABC had flown Giuffre to New York to interview her, one of Epstein’s top lawyers, Alan Dershowitz, reportedly called ABC to keep the network from going through with the story. Dershowitz said he believed he spoke with two producers and a lawyer.

“I did not want to see [Giuffre’s] credibility enhanced by ABC,” he told NPR. 

Along with Prince Andrew, Giuffre has alleged that Epstein trafficked her to Dershowitz, but he’s denied those claims.

Also in that article, unlike ABC, Julie Brown of the Miami Herald said she found Giuffre’s claims credible and went on to say there were other pieces of evidence that supported Giuffre’s story. Because of her reporting, Brown has been credited with helping to reopen and bring national attention to the Epstein case.

See what others are saying: (Axios) (Washington Post) (Page Six)

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