A number of celebrities are joining the fight to save a Texas death row inmate in light of new case developments that suggest he may be innocent.
Rodney Reed, who is black, has been imprisoned for more than 20 years for the 1996 rape and murder of Stacey Stites, a 19-year-old white woman, according to ABC News. The main piece of evidence that led to his 1998 conviction by an all-white jury was the semen found in Stites' body, which was a match to Reed's DNA.
Reed claims the two were engaged in a consensual sexual relationship at the time, explaining the presence of semen, and he continues to maintain his innocence.
Reed, 51, is scheduled to be executed on Nov. 20, but his legal team argues there is new evidence that could potentially exonerate him.
Arthur Snow Jr., a former inmate and then-member of the Aryan Brotherhood, has alleged that in 2010, he was serving time alongside Stites’ fiancé, Jimmy Fennell, and that Fennell boasted about killing Stites, according to an affidavit obtained by CNN.
“Jimmy said his fiancé had been sleeping around with a black man behind his back,” Snow wrote.
“Toward the end of the conversation Jimmy said confidently, ‘I had to kill my n*****-loving fiancé,’" he continued. "My impression was the Jimmy felt safe, even proud, sharing this information with me because I was a member of the Aryan Brotherhood. I think Jimmy assumed that his confession would impress me and earn him credibility with the Aryan Brotherhood.”
Fennell, a former police officer, was serving time for rape, but he has since been released, according to CNN. His lawyer has denied Snow’s allegations and claims that his client has turned over a new leaf thanks to religion, the outlet reports.
Although Fennell was identified as suspect during police's investigation into Stites’ murder, he was never charged in connection with the case.
Reed has appealed his case numerous times, and his most recent request for new DNA testing was denied in 2017, according to ABC News.
Reed’s lawyers at the Innocence Project, a non-profit organization devoted to fighting wrongful convictions, filed an application for clemency last week, CNN reported.
Ahead of Reed’s execution, activists and celebrities like Rihanna, Meek Mill, and Kim Kardashian West are asking Texas Governor Greg Abbott to step in, and hundreds of thousands of people have signed an online petition calling for his execution to be halted.
“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,” Kardashian wrote on Twitter last month. “I URGE YOU TO DO THE RIGHT THING.”
Rihanna shared a link to the online petition on Monday asking her 94 million Twitter followers to take action.
“SIGN this petition if you don’t believe the Government should kill an innocent man!!!” she wrote.
So far, the petition has garnered more than 630,000 signatures.
Speaking to ABC News last month, Reed reflected on his situation and reiterated his innocence.
“Early on I was somewhat upset, just for knowing her. If I wouldn’t have known her, I wouldn’t have been associated with her [and] I wouldn’t be in this situation,” he said. “But this is the situation that was handed to me so I have [to] accept … that I did know her. I have to accept that there was a relationship. I have to accept that I’m here now for something that I didn’t do.”
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