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TX:Protesters gather in support of death row inmate Rodney R
Wed May 21, 2014 13:03

Monday, May 19, 2014 - 8:20 p.m. | Austin American-Statesman
Protesters gather in support of death row inmate Rodney Reed
By Wesley Gardner - Austin Community Newspapers Staff

BASTROP - Family and friends of Rodney Reed gathered Monday morning on the lawn of the Bastrop County Courthouse to present county officials with a petition with more than 10,000 signatures supporting Reed's claim of innocence in a 1996 murder case that shook the city.

Reed was convicted and sentenced to death in 1998 for the rape and murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites, but defense lawyers have managed to keep his case alive with a series of energetic appeals. The defense now claims to have nine sworn witnesses supporting claims that Reed and Stites had been romantically involved months before her death, explaining the presence of his semen in her body. Each witness is either a relative or friend of Reed's.

Sandra Reed, Rodney's mother, was at the courthouse Monday, speaking to a group of supporters holding up signs and banners proclaiming his innocence.

"The truth keeps us all strong, as well as believing that justice will prevail," she said before leading the group into the courthouse to present the petition to Bastrop County District Attorney Bryan Goertz, who was away from courthouse at the time.

"While I respect their efforts, I don't think that disrupting my office was necessarily the route I would have chosen to deliver a petition," said Goertz, who wasn't informed until his return to the courthouse that roughly 20 protesters had flooded the foyer of the district attorney's office chanting and calling for Reed's release.

County officials rejected the petition, saying new claims of a previous relationship held little value in court.

When he was initially tried, no eyewitness accounts were presented to prosecutors suggesting that Reed and Stites had been romantically involved. Reed denied having known Stites in any capacity when initially questioned by police more than a year after her death, according to officials.

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