Film Presents Case for Innocence of Texas Death Row Inmate Rodney Reed
The documentary film “State vs. Reed”, directed by Ryan Polomski and Frank Bustoz, will be screened at Cherrywood Coffeehouse, 1400 E. 38 ½ Street in Austin, on Friday September 3 at 8 PM. The 60-minute film documents the questionable murder conviction of Bastrop resident Rodney Reed for the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites. Rodney Reed’s mother and brother, Sandra Reed and Rodrick Reed, will attend the screening and answer questions after the film.
“State vs. Reed” presents a shocking case of racism, police corruption and prosecutorial misconduct that serves as an indictment of the Texas death penalty system. Hidden DNA evidence and eyewitness testimony all point away from Rodney Reed and toward another suspect – former Giddings Police Officer Jimmy Fennell, who is now in prison after being convicted of an unrelated kidnapping and sexual assault. Reed’s supporters say Fennell, who was engaged to Stites, was enraged after finding out that Reed and Stites were having a romantic affair. Fennell failed two polygraph tests denying Stites’ murder. Fennell is white, as was Stites. Reed is African-American.
The directors received a SXSW Film 06 jury prize for “State vs Reed”. Beginning in 2003, Polomski and Bustoz conducted extensive interviews with attorneys, investigators, journalists, and, during dozens of trips to Bastrop County, several of Reed's relatives. The filmmakers also traveled to Livingston, where Reed sits on death row.
“We are screening “State vs Reed” to continue a dialog with the people of Austin about the injustice of the Texas death penalty. Todd Willingham was executed in 2004 based on forensic science that the Texas Forensic Science Commission said at their last meeting was “seriously flawed”. We do not want Rodney Reed to be the next Todd Willingham, an innocent person executed before he was able to prove his innocence. Time ran out for Todd Willingham and his family, but we do not want time to run out for Rodney Reed and his family. We invite the public to attend the screening to learn about the Rodney Reed case as well as broader issues about the injustice of the Texas death penalty”, said Scott Cobb, one of the organizers of the screening.
“This screening of “State vs Reed” will be a kick-off event for Death Penalty Free Austin’s campaign to convince the Austin City Council to pass a resolution calling for a moratorium on executions. We also want the Travis County District Attorney not to seek the death penalty in capital cases. The Texas death penalty system is riddled with problems and puts innocent people at risk of execution. Support for the death penalty may be higher in some other more conservative parts of Texas, but Austin is not like the rest of Texas. We are asking the people of Austin to reject the death penalty based on its many problems and especially because Texas has a system that cannot reliably sort out the guilty from the innocent”, said Jamie Bush of Death Penalty Free Austin.
Admission to the screening is free. Donations for Death Penalty Free Austin are gratefully accepted. A petition will be available at the screening for people to sign to urge the Austin City Council to pass a moratorium resolution.
Death Penalty Free Austin is a new coalition of groups and individuals in Austin working together to convince the Austin City Council to pass a resolution for a moratorium on executions. The next organizing meeting for Death Penalty Free Austin is Sept 9, contact Lily Hughes at 512 417 2241 for details and the location for the next meeting. Everyone is welcome to join Death Penalty Free Austin.