Police Officer's Sexual Violence Calls Murder Conviction Into Question

Jimmy Fennell, a police officer in Georgetown, Texas, responded to a domestic disturbance in October 2007. After he arrived at the scene, he handcuffed an intoxicated woman, drove her to a park, asked her to dance for him, and raped her. Fennell entered a guilty plea to charges of kidnapping and sexual assault and was sentenced to 12 years of incarceration.

This was not Fennell's first incident of sexual misconduct. Evidence uncovered by the rape victim during a civil rights lawsuit revealed Fennell's "wide-spread sexual misconduct while serving as an on-duty police officer." Among other allegations was a complaint that Fennell offered to tear up a woman's traffic ticket if she gave him a lap dance.

Fennell was also suspected of brutally raping and murdering his fiancee, Stacey Stites, in 1996. Evidence revealed by the civil rights suit raises the question whether the man who was convicted and sentenced to death for that crime, Rodney Reed, is actually innocent. [more ...]

The defense claims Fennell was jealous when he found out Stites was having an affair -- with Reed, whose DNA was found on the body.

After Reed's trial, the defense learned of a witness who saw Stites and Fennell together on the morning of Stites' murder. Whether the prosecutor knew of the witness' observation before Reed's trial was a disputed fact during Reed's post-conviction proceedings. Neither the judge who considered that post-trial evidence nor the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals believed the evidence warranted a new trial.

Fennell's history of sexual brutality toward women is not, in itself, proof that Fennell killed Stites. Nor is evidence of a "culture of lawlessness" at the Bastrop County Sheriffs Office, which may not have investigated Fennell as a serious suspect. Still, it's reasonable to wonder whether Fennell is the true killer -- and whether Reed's jury would have viewed Fennell's testimony differently had it known of his sexually violent character.

A pending federal proceeding is Reed's last hope for a new trial. He deserves one.
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    The trial jury wouldn't have learned (none / 0) (#1)
    by oculus on Mon Apr 13, 2009 at 11:59:29 PM EST
    of the officer's past acts unless they feel under motive, pattern etc. exception under CA Evidence Code.  Not sure how Texas state courts deal with character evidence re a criminal defendant who doesn't put his character in issue.

    A truly disgusting and dangerous person (none / 0) (#2)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Apr 14, 2009 at 12:21:10 PM EST
    who belongs behind bars.

    This being a criminal defense site shouldn't this sentence

    This was not Fennell's first incident of sexual misconduct.
    be written this way:
    This may not have been Fennell's first incident of sexual misconduct.
    and this sentence
    Fennell's history of sexual brutality toward women
    be written like this:
    Fennell's alleged history of sexual brutality toward women
    or is it only cops that are by definition guilty of any/all accusations, whether convicted or not?

    Why do we even let men have guns, (none / 0) (#3)
    by MyLeftMind on Tue Apr 14, 2009 at 04:04:54 PM EST
    never mind letting them be cops, given the amount of abuse from men directed at women.  

    /snark, but only a little.  

    "They" direct a sizable amount (none / 0) (#4)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Apr 14, 2009 at 04:28:37 PM EST
    of their abuse at men as well.

    Whatcha gonna do?


    Gee, if we can send a man to the moon, (none / 0) (#5)
    by MyLeftMind on Tue Apr 14, 2009 at 05:02:27 PM EST
    why can't we send them all?

    apologies in advance to all of the nice men out there who would never indulge in male violence toward women...)


    Damn men. (none / 0) (#6)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Apr 14, 2009 at 05:12:05 PM EST
    Well (none / 0) (#7)
    by squeaky on Wed Apr 15, 2009 at 06:13:34 PM EST
    Instead of getting rid of all men you could become an ant.