The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has granted an indefinite stay in the execution of Rodney Reed. The decision was announced Friday afternoon, shortly after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles suggested the execution be delayed by 120 days.
According to the Dallas News, the decision was "based in part on his claims of actual innocence." Reed, who was scheduled for lethal injection on Nov. 20, was sentenced to death more than two decades ago in connection to the murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites. Prosecutors accused Reed or raping and killing Stites on the morning of April 23, 1996 in Bastrop, Texas. Subsequent DNA tests linked Reed to the sperm found inside Stites' body; however, Reed's legal team claims their client was having an affair with the victim, which explained the DNA match.
According to the New York Times, multiple witnesses have come forth with statements that implicate former police officer Jimmy Fennell in the murder. Fennell, who was Stites' fiancé at the time she was killed, was released from prison in 2018, after pleading guilty to kidnapping a woman while on duty. Fennell's fellow inmate Arthur J. Snow Jr. claims the ex-cop had bragged about killing his Stites because she was having an affair with a black man; this corroborates claims that Reed and Stites were romantically involved.
Fennell's attorney, Robert Phillips, has called the allegations false.
In recent weeks, many celebrities have taken to social media calling on Texas officials to remove Reed from death row. Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, Meek Mill, and Beyoncé are among those who have shown their support.
The case will head back to trial court, where the defense will present new evidence they say points to Reed's innocence.