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New Evidence In Rodney Reed Case

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Nationwide — Rodney Reed, a 51-year old man who was wrongfully convicted of a rape and murder that he did not commit, is scheduled to be executed on November 20th in Texas despite the evidence that confirms his innocence. Several advocates and celebrities such as Beyonce, Rihanna, and Kim Kardashian West have signed a petition to prevent the execution.

In 1996, Reed was accused of killing Stacey Stites, who was then 19-years old. He allegedly kidnapped her before raping and strangling her, leaving her body in a remote area of Bastrop, Texas.

Reed was eventually convicted of rape and murder by an all-white jury in 1998.

However, new evidence that could potentially exonerate him and instead implicate Stites’ fiancé Jimmy Fennell, a local police officer, has emerged.

Reed’s attorneys claimed the prosecution relied on a hunch and inaccurate science, testing recovered DNA against Reed, which became the sole basis of the case. Reed, who initially denied knowing Stites, later admitted that he had a relationship with her and the sperm found inside Stites’ body was because they had consensual sex the day before she was found dead.

Forensic witnesses in the original trial claimed that sperm could not survive for more than a day after sex so prosecutors believed that she was raped by Reed shortly before being murdered. New evidence, however, proved that sperm can stay intact for days after death, confirming that the main evidence linking Reed to her death was wrong as it lacked scientific support.

Additional forensic evidence also pointed toward Fennell. Fingerprints discovered from his pickup truck — which was reportedly used to kidnap Stites — matched only Stites and Fennell.

During the trial, several witnesses could have testified that Fennell found about their affair and threatened Reed, but they weren’t called.

Meanwhile, Fennel, who had a history of violence against women, was sent to jail for kidnapping and sexual assault soon after Rodney was imprisoned. While in jail, Fennel allegedly confessed to killing Stites, according to the affidavit filed by Arthur Snow Jr., a former prison inmate. Snow said he was in jail with Fennel when he said his fiancé had been sleeping around with a Black man behind his back, so he had to kill her.

“Toward the end of the conversation Jimmy said confidently, ‘I had to kill my n****r-loving fiancé,’” Snow wrote. “My impression was that 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.”

Over the years, Reed, who has been on death row for 21 years, maintained his innocence. The Innocence Project, an organization that aims to exonerate wrongly convicted people, is representing Reed.

Moreover, Reed has been receiving support from several people, including pastors, police officers, and celebrities. Almost 3 million people have signed the petition calling for Governor Greg Abbott to grant clemency, stop or delay the execution.

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Another Blow Dealt: Charges Not Directly Linked To Victim Breonna Taylor

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Residents of Louisville, Kentucky along with spectators across the world have waited for more than six months with anticipation for the verdict in the Breonna Taylor case. Anticipation has been boiling so much so that city and state officials began preparing days ago for uncertainty in the event that protests and riots could potentially break out once the verdict was read. The Kentucky National Guard and state police were called in and a 72-hour countywide curfew has been enacted. Once again there is further division, unrest, and lack of trust in another American city as clashes have already began to erupt in the streets of Louisville.

The verdict is in and the long-awaited grand jury charges are as follows. Only one former police officer, Brett Hankinson, was indicted on three felony counts of first-degree wanton endangerment. In a nutshell, the other two officers will face no charges and the charges Hankinson faces are not directly related to the wrongful death of Breonna Taylor, but rather his reckless action of “wantonly shooting a gun” into an apartment (not Breonna’s). First-degree wanton endangerment is a Class D felony, the lowest of four classes of felonies, the maximum sentence is five years; the minimum is one year.

Last week an announcement was made by the city of Louisville that a $12 million settlement had been reached with the family of Breonna Taylor. Continued prayers for the family of Breonna Taylor and the city of Louisville.

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Crime

Faith Leaders Unite to Ban Chokeholds and No-Knock Warrants

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Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Members of City Council
100 Military Plaza #4
San Antonio, TX 78205

Faith Leaders Unite to Ban Chokeholds and No-Knock Warrants 

COPS/Metro, in partnership with Community Churches for Social Action (CCSA), and the Baptist Ministers’ Union (BMU) calls on the City of San Antonio to take direct and immediate action to completely ban police use of any neck restraint (strangleholds, chokeholds) collectively referred to as lateral vascular neck restraint (LVNR),  along with the use of no-knock warrants in any instance. Although changes have been made to San Antonio policing policy since the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, these changes do not go far enough.

One only needs to look around the country to understand why complete bans on these procedures are needed, both to ensure the safety of citizens and build trust with communities of color. In the past month alone, we have seen the impacts of systemic racism on communities. Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by police as his children looked on, while here in our own San Antonio community, a local insurance adjuster, Mathais Ometu, was detained, manhandled, and jailed for the simple offense of jogging while Black. Systemic racism and bias are widespread and deeply rooted, and San Antonio is no exception. We must follow the examples of cities like Dallas, Minneapolis, New York, and Louisville; each of which have enacted policies that aim to take subjectivity and officer discretion out of the equation when it comes to the use of tactics that disproportionately dehumanize Black and Brown people.

Police Chief McManus argues that the city has already made changes to prohibit the use of the chokehold and no-knock warrants, but after reviewing the San Antonio Police General Operating Manual available on the city’s transparency website, Section 501 and  Section 504 both have clear language that allow these dangerous practices. Chokeholds can be used as one of multiple deadly force options if the officer has “reasonable belief” that their life or the lives of others are in danger, while no knock warrants are also permissible if “the officer in charge can articulate particular exigent circumstances” that would require an unannounced entry. After bearing witness to unjust uses of force only compounded by lax police discipline and accountability procedures, how can communities trust in the “reasonable use” of these deadly tactics?

Many of our local conversations about police reform become wrapped up in the intricacies and limitations of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the San Antonio Police Officers Association (SAPOA) and the city. Although there is much in the CBA that needs to be addressed, we don’t need to wait until 2021 to make specific, actionable change on these two policies that threaten the lives of our citizens and further damage and erode trust between Black and Brown communities and police.  The City Council has the power to change these policies today.

If white community members were disproportionately arrested, profiled, assaulted, and killed by the use of these two use of force policies, certainly the policies would be changed immediately. 

Will San Antonio rise to the occasion and put its money where its mouth is in the fight for equal justice and policing? For us to truly live into the “Compassionate SA” ethos, we must make the strides available to us today. Each step pushes us forward in the march toward equity. COPS/Metro, Community Churches for Social Action and the Baptist Ministers’ Union call on City Council to do what is right: take action and immediately ban the use of chokeholds and no-knock warrants.

Sincerely, 

Sr. Gabriella Lohan, Sisters of the Holy Spirit
Leader, COPS/Metro

Pastor Patrick Jones, Pastor, Greater Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church
President, Baptist Minister’s Union

Dr. Jerry Wm Dailey, Pastor, Macedonia Baptist Church
Chairman, Community Churches for Social Action (CCSA) 

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More Outrage and Disbelief

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There’s been another morally questionable shooting of a Black man. 29 year old Jacob Blake was shot several times in his back by the Kenosha, Wisconsin Police Department as he was getting in his car after allegedly breaking up a fight between two women.

Video from CBS This Morning. Before viewing please note the video is very graphic.

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