Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz called efforts to halt the execution of Texas Death Row inmate Rodney Reed “a remarkable bipartisan coalition” on Friday night.
“Having spent years in law enforcement, I believe capital punishment can be justice for the very worst murderers,” Cruz tweeted. “But if there is credible evidence there’s a real change a defendant is innocent, that evidence should be weighed carefully.”
The murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites in Bastrop and the subsequent conviction of Rodney Reed has been in the spotlight for more than two decades. Reed, now 51, has consistently maintained his innocence in the 1996 slaying. His lawyers for years have pointed to new evidence they say makes it impossible for Reed to be the killer and instead, they say, puts suspicion on Stites’ fiancé, Jimmy Fennell.
Both men have been accused of multiple sexual assaults. Reed was indicted, but never convicted, in several other rape cases months before his trial in Stites’ death began in 1998. Fennell spent 10 years in prison after he kidnapped and allegedly raped a woman while on duty as a police officer in 2007.
Since Reed’s conviction in Stites’ death, a suspected murder weapon has gone untested for DNA, forensic evidence has been reexamined and new witnesses have come forward. That has led to a growing chorus of voices — including celebrities like Dr. Phil, Kim Kardashian West and Rihanna — to express their belief in Reed’s innocence and plead for Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to stop his death, scheduled for Nov. 20. On Tuesday morning, the newly-formed, bipartisan Texas House Criminal Justice Reform Caucus and two other Republicans joined the call, asking Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles for more time to review Reed’s new findings.
Cruz’s statement came the night before a rally for Reed is scheduled at the Texas Governor’s Mansion.