All In with Chris Hayes, Transcript 03/05/15

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. This is a special edition of "ALL IN America: The 11th Hour." (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good evening. The verdict is in, and the verdict tonight is guilty. HAYES (voice-over): March 5th, 2015, today was the day Rodney Reed was scheduled to die for a crime he says he did not commit. This is the story of a murder in Texas. A man found guilty. RODNEY REED: It`s just unbelievable. I don`t believe this. HAYES: The people trying to save his life. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything about this case stinks. HAYES: And the possibility that another man committed the crime. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He threw me up against the side of his patrol car. HAYES: At the heart of the story, a question with the highest possible stakes. Is the state of Texas about to kill a man for something he didn`t do? We went to Texas to investigate the murder of Stacey Stites. We retraced the steps, review the evidence and talked to the man sitting on death row right now wondering how many days he has to leave. (on camera): You did not kill Stacey? REED: I had nothing to do with this case. Nothing at all. HAYES (voice-over): This is "All in America: The 11th Hour". (on camera): The most active and efficient death chamber in the nation by far is Texas. Since 1998, when Rodney Reed was sent to death row for the rape and murder of Stacey Stites, the state of Texas has executed 369 people. Today, Rodney Reed was scheduled to be 370. Since he has been on death row in Texas, five of his fellow inmates have been exonerated. The last, Anthony Graves was accused of helping the murder six people. There was no physical evidence tying him to the crime, and the man he was accused of helping, who also convicted of the murders and sent to death row, recanted his testimony, saying Graves had nothing to do with the killings. In 2006, the court of appeals overturned Graves` conviction. In 2010, after 18 years behind bars, 12 of them on death row, Anthony Graves walked out of prison a free man. Rodney Reed watched all of that play out. He has been on death row for 16 years. He was scheduled to die by lethal injection tonight, but the Texas court of criminal appeals issued a last minute stay of execution amid new questions about Reid`s possible innocence. We traveled to Texas to try to find out whether the state was about to execute a man for a crime he did not commit. What did watching that much ritualize death do to you? LARRY FITZGERALD, FORMER TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE SPOKESPERSON: It made me think very seriously about the death penalty. HAYES: Do you think you watched someone innocent be killed. FITZGERALD: There are some people I have doubts about. HAYES: What would that mean, if someone was innocent? FITZGERALD: It would be horrible. It would be absolutely horrible. HAYES (voice-over): Rodney Reed is 47 years old and has spent his life on death row in Texas, for a crime he says he did not commit. He was scheduled to be put to death today, but just last week, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted him a rare stay of execution. Before that stay was granted, I traveled to the prison where Reed spends his days as an inmate in Livingstone, Texas. (on camera): How are you doing, Rodney? REED: How are you doing? Are you Chris? HAYES: I`m Chris, nice to meet you. (voice-over): Rodney Reed was convicted in the rape and murder of a 19-year-old woman named Stacey Stites. Stites was found on the side of a rural county road in April 23, 1996. Initially, investigators questioned Stites` fiance, a local police officer and the last person believed to have seen Stacey alive. For a period of time, he was considered a suspect. But almost a year after her death, with the crime still unsolved, Rodney Reed was brought in for questioning. Reed denied knowing the victim. INVESTIGATOR: This girl is Stacey Stites. Have you ever seen her before? REED: OK. INVESTIGATOR: Have you ever seen her before? REED: No, I haven`t. INVESTIGATOR: Never dated her? REED: No, I haven`t. I don`t know who this person is. HAYES: But investigators had evidence that directly linked Reed to Stites. Semen found inside the body was matched to Rodney Reed. Reed later claimed the two were having a consensual affair. It took an all-white jury just hours to convict Reed of the rape and murder of Stacey Stites. (on camera): When you found out that you were getting the death penalty, did it feel real to you? Did it feel distant? REED: It was a non-feeling. It was like, you know, really it was unbelievable. I just -- it felt like it was in a dream. It wasn`t real, this can`t be happening. HAYES (voice-over): To this day, Reed maintains his innocence. REED: All that evidence has always been out there. It`s always been out there. It`s always -- in fact, it`s been in the state`s hands all this time. HAYES: Reed`s case and latest appeal is now in the hands of the Innocence Project. An acclaimed decade`s old institution that has been involved in the exoneration of over 300 wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing. Innocence Project believes there is enough new information to clear Rodney Reed. BRYCE BENJET, RODNEY REED`S ATTORNEY: This case has everything wrong with it that is wrong with the American criminal justice testimony today. You have racial discrimination, you have misconduct by the state, you have ineffective assistance to counsel, and you have no adequate DNA testing, but yet you want to execute a person. Everything that is wrong with criminal justice shows up in this case. HAYES: Rodney Reed was scheduled to die by lethal injection today. His case is now back in the hands of a Texas court. Reed says he`s on death row for a crime he did not commit. But if Rodney Reed did not kill Stacy Stites, then who did? Reed`s lawyers think they know. (on camera): The state`s case against Rodney Reed in 1998 was so persuasive, it took a jury six hours to convict him for the rape and murder of Stacy Stites. REED: All this here -- am I being charged with something? Is that what all this is coming around, am I being charged with something? INVESTIGATOR: We`ll visit with you later about this. REED: That`s odd. HAYES: Now, new evidence that Reed`s lawyers say points to a different suspect, one currently in jail for kidnapping a woman. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was very calm and collected up until the point of me telling him no. And once I denied him what he wanted, is when the aggressiveness came out. HAYES: The evidence that Rodney Reed didn`t do it, ahead. REED: This evidence has always been out there. It should not have taken this long, when you have a prosecutor with unlimited resources, and the county, law enforcement. Texas rangers, all of the people involved in this investigation, you tell me the evidence wasn`t compiled in the right fashion. It`s not right. (END VIDEOTAPE) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SANDRA REED, MOTHER OF RODNEY REED: The way they prosecuted Rodney was Jim Crow. Something you read about, and that is the past you think, until it happened to you. And it shows that it lurks. It is hidden. But Jim Crow still lurks. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Rodney Reed is on death row tonight, convicted of the rape and murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites. He says he`s innocent. A Texas jury decided otherwise, and when you see how the case was laid out for them, you`ll understand why. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HAYES (voice-over): April 23rd, 1996, a man driving down a secluded county road just outside the small city of Bastrop, Texas, makes a discovery. A young woman`s body partially clothed dead in the brush off the side of the road. Her name tag from the grocery store where he works rests on her leg. She is identified as 19-year-old Stacy Stites of Giddings, Texas. Stites had been reported missing earlier that morning, after she didn`t show up for her early morning shift at the HEB grocery in Bastrop. Police find a red pickup truck in a parking lot behind the local high school. The truck belongs to Stites` fiance, Jimmy Fennell, a Giddings police officer. He tells the Bastrop County sheriff`s department that Stites drove that truck to work. Jimmy Fennell then sits down with authorities to give his account of the previous evening. Fennell says he and Stacey retired to the apartment they shared in Giddings at 7:30 p.m. According to Fennell, she went to bed at about 8:30 to 8:40 p.m., and he went to bed at about 9:00 p.m. He tells investigators he was asleep, but that as far as he knows, she left at the same time on the 23rd that she normally did, 3:30 a.m. The Travis County medical examiner rules that Stacey Stites died as a result of asphyxia due to ligature strangulation associated with sexual assault. A DNA sample is obtained from semen found inside the body. State authorities, the Texas Rangers take the lead in the investigation. Jimmy Fennell, Stites` fiance, is investigated as a suspect. Authorities speak with Fennell several times. He`s found to be deceptive on two polygraph tests, but denies any involvement in Stites` death. Fennell is ultimately cleared. His DNA is not a match and investigators conclude that given that timeline they`ve drawn, he could not have killed his fiancee. Over the next several months, authorities speak hundreds of people, nearly 30 suspects are cleared. Over a dozen through DNA testing. The case goes cold. Police have a DNA sample and no match. Then, months after Stacey Stites is murdered, a break. LINDA SCHLUETER: He opens the door, says thanks for the ride, he gets out, and sits down quick and said, don`t I get a hug? And I said, what? And he said, don`t I get a hug? I said look, I did you a favor, don`t screw me over. And before I could even say another word, he grabbed me by the back of the hair and started slamming my face into my steering wheel. I finally was like, what do you want? What do you want from me? And he replied I want to (EXPLETIVE DELETED). And I said you`ll have to kill me before you get anything from me, and his words were "I guess I`ll have to kill you then." HAYES: Nineteen-year-old Linda Schlueter tells Bastrop police a man tried to force her to have sex with him after she agreed to him a ride. She identifies her attacker from a series of mug shot as 28-year-old Rodney Reed. This appears to lead authorities to take a closer look at Reed. He`d been accused of sexual assault in 1995. The charges had been dropped. Authorities involved in the Stacy Stites murder investigation run Reed`s DNA against the sample found inside Stites` body. It`s a match. Reed`s mother Sandra told me that she answered the door when the sheriff first came looking for her son. SANDRA REED: I asked can you tell me what this is for? And they, this young gentleman said, and looked at me teary eyed, and he said, no, I can`t. That was shocking. And then I said, oh my God, is it that bad? And he looked at me and he just shook his head. Well, Rodney wasn`t there. HAYES: Later that day, Rodney Reed turns himself into police for what he thinks is a drug charge. The interrogation turns out to be about something very, very different. INVESTIGATOR: You know I`m one of the investigators on the Stacy Stites murder. What I want from you, did you know this girl? If you do, when you did meet her? Do you know who she is? REED: No, I don`t know a Stacy Stites. I`ve seen the stuff on the news and stuff like that, but I don`t know that person. INVESTIGATOR: If I showed you a picture of her, would you recognize the picture that you saw? REED: Yes, that kind of looks like the picture, that yes, that they had on the news. INVESTIGATOR: Do you know this girl? REED: No, I don`t. INVESTIGATOR: This girl is Stacy Stites. REED: OK. INVESTIGATOR: Have you ever seen her before? REED: No, I haven`t. INVESTIGATOR: Never dated her? REED: No, I haven`t. I don`t know who this person is. HAYES: Reed signs a statement. "I don`t know Stacy Stites, never seen here other than what was on the news. The only thing that I do know is what was said on the news is that she was murdered." He then asked a detective about an attorney. REED: They brought me in on this drug thing or whatever. I`m coming in here on this, shouldn`t I have an attorney or something? I should have an attorney. INVESTIGATOR: All right. Somebody will be here to get you in a few minutes. REED: OK. Yo, David, David, David, David. INVESTIGATOR: Yes? REED: All this here, this stuff here, am I being charged with something? Or does that mean that this was this is coming around? Am I being charged or something? INVESTIGATOR: We`ll visit with you later about this. REED: That`s odd. HAYES: Reed later says he did know Stacy Stites. In fact, he says they were engaged in a secret sexual relationship. And that he was lying to investigators. REED: When he pulled the picture up, I just, I don`t know nothing. All I know is what was on the news, which that was the truth, the only thing I knew about the situation of Stacey is what was on the news. As far as me having a relationship, you know, I wasn`t forthcoming with that. HAYES: Reed said he was trying to avoid saying something damaging. REED: I didn`t want to incriminate myself. And try to -- you know, I didn`t want to be questioned about it. You know what I`m saying? I had nothing -- I`m a black man in a small town. I`m not pulling a race card or anything like that, it`s not about that. But the nature of the -- it was a small city I lived in. You know what I`m saying? HAYES: Almost a year after Stacey Stites is killed, Rodney Reed is charged with her rape and murder. To this day, he maintains he is innocent. (on camera): You did not kill Stacey Stites? REED: I had nothing to do with this case, nothing at all. Absolutely nothing at all. HAYES (voice-over): Rodney`s family hires a private attorney to represent him but the legal bills proved to be too much. Reed is then appointed two attorneys by the state. During the trial, the defense team points to the possibility of another killer. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Prosecutors say DNA evidence will prove Rodney Reed did it. The defense told the jury there is plenty of reasonable doubt. It could have been Stacey`s fiance, a police officer who would know how to cover up a crime. DAVE HARMON, REPORTER: It was raised immediately by the defense. That was a big part of their case. She threw out two potential killers, with Jimmy Fennell being her -- kind of main option. HAYES (on camera): He then takes the stand, right? HARMON: Yes. Day two, he`s on the stand. HAYES: Did you find him credible? What effect do you think he had on the jury? HARMON: I though he was believable. HAYES (voice-over): Reed`s legal team does not present witnesses to challenge the forensic evidence. They lay out a case that hinges on what Reed says was a secret affair between him and Stites. But they are not able to produce anyone to reliably corroborate that account. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At the beginning of this trial, the defense said that they could prove Rodney Reed and Stacey Stites were having a secret sexual affair that could account for the DNA evidence found in her body. But no witnesses ever testified directly that they knew about such an affair. HARMON: If you can explain the presence of the DNA through a secret affair between the two of them, then to me, that`s reasonable doubt. The problem is, when it came time for the defense to present that evidence, I think the one witness that I remember got up there and said, Stacey had come to the house looking for Rodney, she got Stacey`s name wrong, called her Stephanie at first. The lawyer had to ask her, what was the name again? And then she couldn`t confirm that there was a relationship between the two of them. Just that she had come looking for Rodney. So, the defense was never able to present a witness that said, yes, these two had a thing going. HAYES: The state makes their case, relying entirely on the DNA match, telling the jury it`s the Cinderella slipper in this case, and it only fits one person. There`s only one person in the world who could have done this, and he`s sitting over there. The jury finds Rodney Reed guilty with two counts of capital murder, for the abduction and rape of Stacey Stites. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The guilty verdict is welcome news for Stites family, but they are not celebrating. CRYSTAL DOBBS, SISTER OF STACEY STITES: A tragedy that just affected so many family members and friends and it is a very sad, very sad day. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel for his family. Obviously he had people that loved him too, and it`s hard to lose someone. HAYES (on camera): When they said guilty, what did you think? REED: It was kind of a non-feeling. I really can`t express how -- what I was thinking, it seems like -- you know, what next? You know, what the hell is really going on? I wasn`t going to act out or nothing like that, it was on my mind. It was just unbelievable. I don`t believe this. HAYES (voice-over): In Texas, a capital murder trial is followed by a punishment phase, in which the jury decides whether or not a person should be put to death by the state. The state can offer evidence of prior bad acts, regardless of whether the person in question has previously been charged with or finally convicted of the crime or act. Five women take the stand against Reed, each alleging he had sexually assaulted them. After just four hours of deliberation by the jury, he is sentenced to death. Rodney Reed is moved to Livingston Texas, death row. Almost a decade later, a new development. Jimmy Fennell, a police officer and Stites` fiance, is accused of kidnapping a woman, driving her to a recreation area and raping her. He pled guilty to kidnapping and improper sexual activity with the person in custody. And today he is serving a 10-year sentence in a Texas prison. (on camera): You hear about Jimmy Fennell`s plea years later. HARMON: Yes. HAYES: What went through your mind then? Because I think people that get the case, that come to it afterwards, you know, if you`re back in that jury room, and they`re saying this cop killed his fiancee, you`re thinking, that seems like a stretch? HARMON: Right. HAYES: If you come to the case later, it seems a little more plausible? HARMON: Yes, I remember thinking, we had no idea what Jimmy Fennell was capable of in 1998. I wonder what a jury would have done if they had known about that at the time. It makes you think a lot harder about whether Jimmy Fennell could have done it. (END VIDEOTAPE) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HAYES (voice-over): There are thousands of people in prison or on death row that say they are innocent. And some of them actually are. The Innocence Project takes on only a select number of cases. Texas death row inmate Rodney Reed is one of them. REED: I don`t entertain the idea of being executed. If it happens, it happens, you know? But I`m not looking for that to happen. HAYES: Key to the Innocence Project`s defense of Rodney Reed are questions about the state`s time line of the death surrounding 19-year-old Stacey Stites. And the man who originally gave that timeline to investigators, Jimmy Fennell, the local police officer and the fiance of the victim. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The body of 19-year-old Stacey Stites was found along a roadside. She had been raped and strangled. HAYES: Investigators questioned Fennell and he gives them what he says is his recollection of the previous night`s events. That helped shape the state`s timeline, which the prosecution used in an opening at Rodney Reed`s trial Stacey went to bed in the apartment she and Fennell shared in Giddings, Texas, at about 8:30 because she had to get up to go to work the next morning to be there at 3:30 a.m.. Work was nearly about 30 miles away. And she was planning on driving Fennell`s truck to get there. Jimmy stayed up, watched TV and eventually went to bed himself. She would set her alarm every morning for 2:45 and leave the house at 3:00 a.m. According to the state, nothing unusual that morning, alarm set at normal time, off she went. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nineteen-year-old Stacey Stites never made it to work at the Bastrop HEB one early morning, just weeks before her wedding day. HAYES: Fennell`s truck is later found by a local patrol officer 5:23 p.m. abandoned by the Bastrop high school. Back at the department, the state says Stacey`s frantically mother calls Jimmy to tell him her daughter has not made it in to work. Around 2:45 p.m., a land appraiser discovers Stacey`s body, along the side of a rural country road and miles away from the truck. The lead investigator later admits during the trial that the apartment Stites and Fennell shared was never searched by authorities. Following an autopsy, the medical examiner gives an estimated time of death, 3:00 a.m. Authorities consider Fennell a suspect and he is later asked to take a polygraph test. Among the questions, did you strangle Stacey Stites on April 23, 1996? Fennell`s answer, "no". That response given by Fennell is found to be deceptive by a test investigator. Months later, Fennell takes another test and once again as detailed in the investigator`s report, gives answers found to be deceptive by the test administrator. But polygraph results are not admissible in Texas criminal court cases. And investigators eventually rule Fennel out as a suspect. Nearly a decade later, Jimmy Fennell finds himself in the public eye once again. CONNIE LEAR: Me and my boyfriend at the time, we were out in the parking lot of the apartment complex arguing and fighting and the neighbors called the cops for a noise disturbance. HAYES: October 2007, police in Georgetown, Texas are called to a potential domestic disturbance. One of the officers responding to the call is Jimmy Fennell, now a Georgetown police officer. The dispute involves 20-year-old Connie Lear (ph) and her boyfriend According to a civil lawsuit, the boyfriend is arrested by other officers at the scene. Fennell offered to protect Lear, an exotic dancer at the time, from her boyfriend by taking her to a hotel where she would be safe. Lear says that Fennell drove her to a recreational area instead. LEAR: He told me that he knew what I did, and he wanted me to dance for him. And when I told him no he -- he got mad, of course. And he threw me up against the side of his patrol car, and he took his belt off that has their weapons on it, and he laid it out across the hood of the car in front of me, started pointing out what everything was, took his issued weapon out, placed it against my head on the trunk and raped me. HAYES: Lear reports the attack. Just weeks later Fennell is indicted by a grand jury. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Georgetown sergeant Jimmy Fennell Jr. is charged with sexually assaulting a woman at gunpoint last October. HAYES: He ends up pleased guilty to kidnapping and improper sexual contact with a person in custody. Fennell is sentenced to 10 years in prison and is scheduled to be released in September 2018. Jimmy Fennell declined our request for an interview. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He cried on the stand when he talked about learning from another officer that was dead. HAYES: Jurors in Rodney Reid`s 1998 trial could not have known that a decade ladder, Jimmy Fennell would be in prison for kidnapping. What they saw at the time was a credible witness for the prosecution. DAVE HARMON, JOURNALIST: He talked a lot about multiple interrogations, good cop, bad cop techniques, being yelled at, being called names, pretty intensive interrogation from the Texas ranger that was in charge. HAYES: Jimmy Fennell was the primary source for the time line, which was corroborated by investigators and used by prosecutors in the conviction of Rodney Reed for the rape and murder of Stites. Let`s talk about the state`s time line as presented during trial and what you think the kind of holes of it are. BRYCE BENJET, RODNEY REED`S ATTORNEY: This is the issue. And this is really what`s raised by the new evidence. The state`s time line is based entirely on Jimmy Fennell who even -- under the state`s impression -- was asleep at the time. HAYES: At Reed`s trial, the Travis County medical examiner, Roberto Bairardo (ph0 gave forensic confirmation of Fennell`s time line, estimated Stites time of death 3:00 a.m. But in 2012, Bairardo (ph) recanted much of his testimony, including his original estimate of a 3:00 a.m. time of death, noting it should not have been used at trial as an accurate statement of when Stites died. According to the state`s original case against Rodney Reed, Stacey Stites was killed sometime after she left her apartment for work. BENJET: The states argument is this, is that Stacey Stites had a 3:30 a.m. shift at a grocery store. And that she would have gotten up around 2:50 or so, and would have headed out to Bastrop. Although Jimmy says that she would never stop for anyone, somehow, Rodney Reed, a stranger to her, in the middle of the night was able to get into the truck, physically overcome her, drive to the scene where her body was found, rape and murder her, leave her body in the brush, and then, abandon the truck in the Bastrop highschool parking lot, which was about a half of mile from his home. And that all happened somewhere between 3:15 or so in the morning and 5:23 in the morning. HAYES: The Innocence Project contends that evidence seen in photographs and video of the crime scene shows that Stites was killed long before the state says she left for work. BENJET: What happens after you die is that the capillaries where your blood is start to break down. And your blood begins to pool with gravity. And so, if a person has been dead and they`re lying down on the floor, they will get these very pronounced red splotches on their back and that shows the blood has pooled. Once that blood begins to pool and fixes, it stays there. That`s a process that takes four to six hours. What we see when we look at Stacey Stites body is we see this redness on the top of her arm, on her shoulder, on her neck, on the side of her face, that is inconsistent with gravity. And what a trained forensic investigator will tell you is that that is a key sign, undeniably, that this is a body that`s been moved. HAYES: That assertion is supported in affidavits given by some of the nation`s top forensic pathologists, who have reviewed the crime scene video and photographs. As Doctor Werner Spitz notes, "it is impossible that Stites was murdered and left at the scene in the two-hour time frame asserted by the state at trial. While Doctor Michael Baden concludes that the evidence demonstrates that Stites was dead before midnight on April 22nd, when she was alone with Mr. Fennell. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RONDEY REED, TEXAS DEATH ROW INMATE: I`m optimistic. I mean, the evidence is there, it`s just -- if the courts are willing to acknowledge this, you know what I`m saying? I really, I`m optimistic, I have faith. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Rodney Reed was scheduled to die today by lethal injection. The Innocence Project says Reed did not commit the crime he was convicted of and they have the evidence to prove it. A Texas court must now decide if that evidence is powerful enough to reopen Rodney Reed`s case and keep him from being put to death by the state of Texas. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: When Rodney Reed was convicted in 1998 for the murder of Stacey Stites, he was represented at trial by state appointed lawyers that had just months to prepare their case. Now, he is being represented by an attorney from The Innocence Project, which is one of the renowned firms in the nation committed to exonerating people who have been falsely convicted. They have brought forth new analysis on the forensic evidence of the case that was not used before And joining me now, Barry Scheck, the co founder and co director of The Innocence Project. Very great to have you here. BARRY SCHECK, CO FOUNDER AND CO DIRECTOR OF THE INNOCENCE PROJECT: Good to be here. HAYES: So, there was a stay granted last week, I guess it was. How rare is a stay like that being granted by a Texas court. SCHECK: You have to have a lot of good evidence and the timeline evidence, the forensic evidence. Not just the rigor mortis, that she must have been face down for all those hours, but there`s additional evidence that when they put her body into a body bag, and there`s video tapes of that, it was flopping around. Which meant that she was no longer stiff from rigor mortis, and there was what they call purge coming out of her mouth, and, medical examiners who look at that, and these are, these are very, very esteemed medical examiners, Doctor Riddick, Doctor Baden, Doctor Spitz, will tell you that that means that she was decomposing for 20 hours. So that means she was -- HAYES: More than twenty hours pushes you all the way back midnight, 11 p.m. SCHECK: She was dead in that house with Jimmy Fennell. Right? And that is, very, very power -- So it`s rare for a Texas court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, at this kind of a stage, to grant this kind of a stay, but, we just got a statute passed in Texas, and there`s one in California, that allows people to go back into court when there`s forensic evidence that can prove innocence that was not originally brought forward at the trial. HAYES: That was passed in Texas? You wouldn`t necessarily anticipate that. SCHECK: Well it, the reason it was passed in Texas is there were a series of cases where they recognized that there was a medical examiners who made mistakes, and they went back to legislature to do it. We had a lot of exonerations in Texas. And, by the way, you know Governor Abbott, when this stay was granted, he said "I`m thankful, because I don`t want an execution in my state when there`s a serious stat raised by forensic evidence". Because remember Cameron Todd Aillingham. Cameron Todd Wilingham didn`t have that statute available. He was a man that was executed based on junk forensic science. It went all of the way through. They should have stopped it, frankly, the Texas Board of Pardon and Parole, and i think this governor recognizes after the Willingham case, after the Graves case, other cases that there`s a real risk of executing innocent people and I think he`s thankful. HAYES: Cameron Todd Willingham is a man who was convicted of arson, of burning down a house. He was, I think his wife and daughter were in that house-- SCHECK: There were 3 children. HAYES: 3 children. He was put to death. There`s very, very persuasive evidence that, that basically all the science that said it was arson was junk science. I got a chance, actually, to ask Rodney Reed about that, because he was on death row with Cameron Todd Willingham. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REED: I talked to Todd. HAYES: And he maintained his innocence. REED: He maintained his innocence. In fact, he told me that he wish he had my case because it was DNA, you know what I`m saying, they could be utilized. But as far as the science in itself, I mean, that science that established his innocence was out there, he just didn`t have those experts on his side. You know? And the state took advantage of that. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: So this gets into this question, you know, independent of the facts of Rodney Reed`s case is, we know what the standard is at trial. It`s reasonable doubt, right? Once someone has been convicted, they`ve been sentenced to death, what is the standard? I mean, what do you have to show a court to go through the extraordinary process of essentially, reopening what is a settled legal matter. SCHECK: Well, in Texas the standard is clear. They call it actual innocence, or clear and convincing evidence of innocence. So, this forensic medical examiner evidence is very, very powerful. And I think it meets that standard, and that`s the reason this case was stayed. HAYES: And so, you actually have to, you have to come forward and say we`ve got evidence of actual innocence, right? SCHECK: In texas you do, yes. HAYES: How has the process for this developed? I mean obviously we have seen largely because of The Innocence Project, I got to say, this sort of pioneering use of DNA evidence has shown us that there`s a lot of people around the country who were innocent of crimes, that demonstrably shown by the scientific evidence. How has that affected how the legal regime across the country deals with habeas corpus, with appeals. SCHECK: Well, dramatically. I mean, basically what`s happened in the last six years, six states have repealed capital punishment, which now makes, all together 18 that say it`s illegal. But, there are another eight eight states that have not executed anybody and have not given out death sentences in ten years. So, it`s falling to disuse. And governors, as we just saw in Pennsylvania, and the state of Washington, and the state of Oregon are saying I`m declaring a moratorium. HAYES: We`ve seen a decline in, we`ve seen sort of states taming their legal regime. We`ve also seen a decline in executions over time. 1999 there were 98. You see that go down... SCHECK: Down 60 percent. HAYES: Down somewhat dramatically. What are the lessons here? Broadly, from a case like Rodney Reed`s, but that`s just one of the many cases that you`ve handled. SCHECK: Well, the lesson is that there is a serious risk of executing innocent people, whether you`re for or against the death penalty, that is something that nobody can tolerate. And there is other good public policy reasons that people can debate about it. And it also, I know it is a favorite issue for you is that you don`t want to have legal restrictions that prevent you from putting on evidence of innocence that we had with the anti-death penalty in... HAYES: Passed under Clinton, which still exists to this day. Barry Scheck, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it. Right now Rodney Reed is on death row waiting to find out what the Texas court of criminal appeals decides in his case. Until the court issued a stay, Reed was scheduled to be taken from death row to the execution chamber in Huntsville, Texas and to die by lethal injection today. When I spoke with him last month, he told me firsthand what that process looks like. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REED: Before I was put on death watch, I was housed in an area where you could see the van pull in and you could see the guy, if he is out here with his last visit, you can see the team, all suited up with their helmets and the gear on, and all that stuff escorting him down and back into the building, strip him out, put him back in shackles and then put him in the van and take him to Huntsville. You know you see that whole process going on there. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: In working on this story and reporting out this case, we have tried to speak to as many people as possible. We tried to reach several members of Stacey Stites family through different avenues and were not successful. We requested interviews with several of the investigators who worked on the case, including the lead investigator, then Texas Ranger Rocky Wardluck (ph). They all declined to speak with us. The Texas attorney general`s office where prosecutor attorney Lisa Tanner is still working declined to comment. The Texas governor`s office did not respond to our request for comment. The current Bastruck County (ph) district attorney Brian Gurtz (ph) declined to speak with us on the record. And we were not successful in reaching the former Bastruck County (ph) DA Charles Pennock (Ph). All in all, after repeated requests, no one from the state would speak to us on the record for this piece. We did, however, manage to talk to many other people involved in this case, including Rodney Reed himself. I traveled to death row in Livingston, Texas to ask him about the case, about his claims of innocence and about what his life has been like for the past 16 years on death row. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HAYES: Were you scared? I mean, you know, you are told that you are being sent to go live with the worst monsters in Texas, the people who have done the most heinous acts and you`re going to be around them. REED: No, I can`t say they was scared. I can`t say that i was scared. I didn`t want to come here, but once I got here -- I mean, some of these guys who used to be someone else`s neighbor, you know, they`re someone else`s brother, you know, someone`s cousin, someone`s father, you know what I`m saying? You don`t know what may have happened in their lives that brought them here. HAYES: What is your life been like here? Like what`s a -- I mean, what`s a typical day like? REED: Well, pretty much every day pretty much repeats itself. You go in your cell, come out of your cell, you get fed through a slot such as this, you know, that type of thing. You`re confined to a small space. The routine, the daily routine, you have a program. It`s the same program every day. Not unless you want to stay in your cell and I choose to come out and exercise what little rights that I do have, you know what I"m saying, going to the day room or going outside or something like that to enjoy -- it is a small society back here. It`s a small society back in there. HAYES: So you don`t -- do you see the other inmates throughout the day? REED: Yeah, you can see them. I mean, if you`re in your cell, depending on where your cell is -- like right now the cell that I`m in, I`m a corner, so if someone is in the day room I can talk to them from my cell, but then, you know, you`ve got like -- I don`t know if you can see that window on that door over there with the little slit, you know, what I`m saying... HAYES: So you can yell out? REED: Yeah. But then you kind of just, out of respect, at a certain time you can`t do that all throughout the night, because you have people certainly things -- with things on their minds and they`re busy doing other things or someone else is trying to talk to someone. HAYES: So what you`re saying is there is one open public space in which people would have conversations and you can`t be the one... REED: So your conversation is not private. HAYES: But you also can`t be the one who is always having that conversation space because that means you`re taking it from someone else. REED: N. But if no one is talking, then, hey, the floor is yours. I don`t know -- we have an opportunity to go outside and have recreation outside, but then it is like a divider between two sides. And there is only two guys outside at a time. HAYES: And you`re out with someone else. REED: Also. HAYES: And you can talk to them then. REED: You can talk to them, yeah. And they`re like a basketball, one on each side. And there is basketball on each side. And it would be kind of like -- you know, you can play a game to tens, see who can make the first ten shots, you know, running back and forth, trying to keep, you know, yourself mentally in shape, you know, physically in shape. HAYES: Do you have friendships that have been born here? REED: I don`t use that word loosely -- friends -- friendship. I mean, I have guys that I associate with because when you go as far as making a friend, there are feeling there is that if you know what I a true friend is, you know what I`m saying, and the next thing you know the state is going to take them, it`s more than likely the friend -- the state is going to kill him. So I don`t get as close as calling someone my friend. HAYES: What is it like on a day -- an execution day? REED: Well, most of those days are pretty quiet. There`s not a lot of -- it depends, it really depends, but from my point most of those days are pretty quite, you know what I`m saying, because you know what`s happening is real, this is real, it`s not like TV where someone is killed in a movie and then he made some money and he went home back to his family. This is real. They`re really killing people here in Texas. (END VIDEOTAPE) HAYES: What I learned from months of investigating Rodney Reed`s case, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: I spent the last two months pouring over Rodney Reed`s case and I still do not know if he is innocent or guilty of the crime that put him on death row. There`s a lot of really disturbing allegations against him independent of that crime. What I do know is that I don`t really trust the criminal justice system in Texas, or anyone else, frankly, in a nation that puts more people behind bars than almost any other country on Earth, a nation where over the past 40 years, nearly 150 people on death row have been exonerated. I also know that immersing myself in the details of this case has only strengthened my conviction that the state has no business killing people. And what I strongly feel, though of course I can`t say this for sure, is that if we can get in a time machine and go back to 1998 when Rodney Reed was on trial for the rape and murder of Stacey Stites, and we could give Reed access to the best criminal defense that money could buy in the state of Texas, or even just give him access to his current legal team, I have a very hard time believing he would have ended up facing execution by the state. And if that is true, if that is what determines justice in this country, then it is not justice at all. This has been All In America: The 11th Hour. The Rachel Maddow Show starts now. Good evening, Rachel. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: March 5, 2015 Byline: Chris Hayes Guest: CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. This is a special edition of "ALL IN America: The 11th Hour." (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good evening. The verdict is in, and the verdict tonight is guilty. HAYES (voice-over): March 5th, 2015, today was the day Rodney Reed was scheduled to die for a crime he says he did not commit. This is the story of a murder in Texas. A man found guilty. RODNEY REED: It`s just unbelievable. I don`t believe this. HAYES: The people trying to save his life. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything about this case stinks. HAYES: And the possibility that another man committed the crime. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He threw me up against the side of his patrol car. HAYES: At the heart of the story, a question with the highest possible stakes. Is the state of Texas about to kill a man for something he didn`t do? We went to Texas to investigate the murder of Stacey Stites. We retraced the steps, review the evidence and talked to the man sitting on death row right now wondering how many days he has to leave. (on camera): You did not kill Stacey? REED: I had nothing to do with this case. Nothing at all. HAYES (voice-over): This is "All in America: The 11th Hour". (on camera): The most active and efficient death chamber in the nation by far is Texas. Since 1998, when Rodney Reed was sent to death row for the rape and murder of Stacey Stites, the state of Texas has executed 369 people. Today, Rodney Reed was scheduled to be 370. Since he has been on death row in Texas, five of his fellow inmates have been exonerated. The last, Anthony Graves was accused of helping the murder six people. There was no physical evidence tying him to the crime, and the man he was accused of helping, who also convicted of the murders and sent to death row, recanted his testimony, saying Graves had nothing to do with the killings. In 2006, the court of appeals overturned Graves` conviction. In 2010, after 18 years behind bars, 12 of them on death row, Anthony Graves walked out of prison a free man. Rodney Reed watched all of that play out. He has been on death row for 16 years. He was scheduled to die by lethal injection tonight, but the Texas court of criminal appeals issued a last minute stay of execution amid new questions about Reid`s possible innocence. We traveled to Texas to try to find out whether the state was about to execute a man for a crime he did not commit. What did watching that much ritualize death do to you? LARRY FITZGERALD, FORMER TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE SPOKESPERSON: It made me think very seriously about the death penalty. HAYES: Do you think you watched someone innocent be killed. FITZGERALD: There are some people I have doubts about. HAYES: What would that mean, if someone was innocent? FITZGERALD: It would be horrible. It would be absolutely horrible. HAYES (voice-over): Rodney Reed is 47 years old and has spent his life on death row in Texas, for a crime he says he did not commit. He was scheduled to be put to death today, but just last week, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted him a rare stay of execution. Before that stay was granted, I traveled to the prison where Reed spends his days as an inmate in Livingstone, Texas. (on camera): How are you doing, Rodney? REED: How are you doing? Are you Chris? HAYES: I`m Chris, nice to meet you. (voice-over): Rodney Reed was convicted in the rape and murder of a 19-year-old woman named Stacey Stites. Stites was found on the side of a rural county road in April 23, 1996. Initially, investigators questioned Stites` fiance, a local police officer and the last person believed to have seen Stacey alive. For a period of time, he was considered a suspect. But almost a year after her death, with the crime still unsolved, Rodney Reed was brought in for questioning. Reed denied knowing the victim. INVESTIGATOR: This girl is Stacey Stites. Have you ever seen her before? REED: OK. INVESTIGATOR: Have you ever seen her before? REED: No, I haven`t. INVESTIGATOR: Never dated her? REED: No, I haven`t. I don`t know who this person is. HAYES: But investigators had evidence that directly linked Reed to Stites. Semen found inside the body was matched to Rodney Reed. Reed later claimed the two were having a consensual affair. It took an all-white jury just hours to convict Reed of the rape and murder of Stacey Stites. (on camera): When you found out that you were getting the death penalty, did it feel real to you? Did it feel distant? REED: It was a non-feeling. It was like, you know, really it was unbelievable. I just -- it felt like it was in a dream. It wasn`t real, this can`t be happening. HAYES (voice-over): To this day, Reed maintains his innocence. REED: All that evidence has always been out there. It`s always been out there. It`s always -- in fact, it`s been in the state`s hands all this time. HAYES: Reed`s case and latest appeal is now in the hands of the Innocence Project. An acclaimed decade`s old institution that has been involved in the exoneration of over 300 wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing. Innocence Project believes there is enough new information to clear Rodney Reed. BRYCE BENJET, RODNEY REED`S ATTORNEY: This case has everything wrong with it that is wrong with the American criminal justice testimony today. You have racial discrimination, you have misconduct by the state, you have ineffective assistance to counsel, and you have no adequate DNA testing, but yet you want to execute a person. Everything that is wrong with criminal justice shows up in this case. HAYES: Rodney Reed was scheduled to die by lethal injection today. His case is now back in the hands of a Texas court. Reed says he`s on death row for a crime he did not commit. But if Rodney Reed did not kill Stacy Stites, then who did? Reed`s lawyers think they know. (on camera): The state`s case against Rodney Reed in 1998 was so persuasive, it took a jury six hours to convict him for the rape and murder of Stacy Stites. REED: All this here -- am I being charged with something? Is that what all this is coming around, am I being charged with something? INVESTIGATOR: We`ll visit with you later about this. REED: That`s odd. HAYES: Now, new evidence that Reed`s lawyers say points to a different suspect, one currently in jail for kidnapping a woman. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was very calm and collected up until the point of me telling him no. And once I denied him what he wanted, is when the aggressiveness came out. HAYES: The evidence that Rodney Reed didn`t do it, ahead. REED: This evidence has always been out there. It should not have taken this long, when you have a prosecutor with unlimited resources, and the county, law enforcement. Texas rangers, all of the people involved in this investigation, you tell me the evidence wasn`t compiled in the right fashion. It`s not right. (END VIDEOTAPE) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SANDRA REED, MOTHER OF RODNEY REED: The way they prosecuted Rodney was Jim Crow. Something you read about, and that is the past you think, until it happened to you. And it shows that it lurks. It is hidden. But Jim Crow still lurks. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Rodney Reed is on death row tonight, convicted of the rape and murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites. He says he`s innocent. A Texas jury decided otherwise, and when you see how the case was laid out for them, you`ll understand why. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HAYES (voice-over): April 23rd, 1996, a man driving down a secluded county road just outside the small city of Bastrop, Texas, makes a discovery. A young woman`s body partially clothed dead in the brush off the side of the road. Her name tag from the grocery store where he works rests on her leg. She is identified as 19-year-old Stacy Stites of Giddings, Texas. Stites had been reported missing earlier that morning, after she didn`t show up for her early morning shift at the HEB grocery in Bastrop. Police find a red pickup truck in a parking lot behind the local high school. The truck belongs to Stites` fiance, Jimmy Fennell, a Giddings police officer. He tells the Bastrop County sheriff`s department that Stites drove that truck to work. Jimmy Fennell then sits down with authorities to give his account of the previous evening. Fennell says he and Stacey retired to the apartment they shared in Giddings at 7:30 p.m. According to Fennell, she went to bed at about 8:30 to 8:40 p.m., and he went to bed at about 9:00 p.m. He tells investigators he was asleep, but that as far as he knows, she left at the same time on the 23rd that she normally did, 3:30 a.m. The Travis County medical examiner rules that Stacey Stites died as a result of asphyxia due to ligature strangulation associated with sexual assault. A DNA sample is obtained from semen found inside the body. State authorities, the Texas Rangers take the lead in the investigation. Jimmy Fennell, Stites` fiance, is investigated as a suspect. Authorities speak with Fennell several times. He`s found to be deceptive on two polygraph tests, but denies any involvement in Stites` death. Fennell is ultimately cleared. His DNA is not a match and investigators conclude that given that timeline they`ve drawn, he could not have killed his fiancee. Over the next several months, authorities speak hundreds of people, nearly 30 suspects are cleared. Over a dozen through DNA testing. The case goes cold. Police have a DNA sample and no match. Then, months after Stacey Stites is murdered, a break. LINDA SCHLUETER: He opens the door, says thanks for the ride, he gets out, and sits down quick and said, don`t I get a hug? And I said, what? And he said, don`t I get a hug? I said look, I did you a favor, don`t screw me over. And before I could even say another word, he grabbed me by the back of the hair and started slamming my face into my steering wheel. I finally was like, what do you want? What do you want from me? And he replied I want to (EXPLETIVE DELETED). And I said you`ll have to kill me before you get anything from me, and his words were "I guess I`ll have to kill you then." HAYES: Nineteen-year-old Linda Schlueter tells Bastrop police a man tried to force her to have sex with him after she agreed to him a ride. She identifies her attacker from a series of mug shot as 28-year-old Rodney Reed. This appears to lead authorities to take a closer look at Reed. He`d been accused of sexual assault in 1995. The charges had been dropped. Authorities involved in the Stacy Stites murder investigation run Reed`s DNA against the sample found inside Stites` body. It`s a match. Reed`s mother Sandra told me that she answered the door when the sheriff first came looking for her son. SANDRA REED: I asked can you tell me what this is for? And they, this young gentleman said, and looked at me teary eyed, and he said, no, I can`t. That was shocking. And then I said, oh my God, is it that bad? And he looked at me and he just shook his head. Well, Rodney wasn`t there. HAYES: Later that day, Rodney Reed turns himself into police for what he thinks is a drug charge. The interrogation turns out to be about something very, very different. INVESTIGATOR: You know I`m one of the investigators on the Stacy Stites murder. What I want from you, did you know this girl? If you do, when you did meet her? Do you know who she is? REED: No, I don`t know a Stacy Stites. I`ve seen the stuff on the news and stuff like that, but I don`t know that person. INVESTIGATOR: If I showed you a picture of her, would you recognize the picture that you saw? REED: Yes, that kind of looks like the picture, that yes, that they had on the news. INVESTIGATOR: Do you know this girl? REED: No, I don`t. INVESTIGATOR: This girl is Stacy Stites. REED: OK. INVESTIGATOR: Have you ever seen her before? REED: No, I haven`t. INVESTIGATOR: Never dated her? REED: No, I haven`t. I don`t know who this person is. HAYES: Reed signs a statement. "I don`t know Stacy Stites, never seen here other than what was on the news. The only thing that I do know is what was said on the news is that she was murdered." He then asked a detective about an attorney. REED: They brought me in on this drug thing or whatever. I`m coming in here on this, shouldn`t I have an attorney or something? I should have an attorney. INVESTIGATOR: All right. Somebody will be here to get you in a few minutes. REED: OK. Yo, David, David, David, David. INVESTIGATOR: Yes? REED: All this here, this stuff here, am I being charged with something? Or does that mean that this was this is coming around? Am I being charged or something? INVESTIGATOR: We`ll visit with you later about this. REED: That`s odd. HAYES: Reed later says he did know Stacy Stites. In fact, he says they were engaged in a secret sexual relationship. And that he was lying to investigators. REED: When he pulled the picture up, I just, I don`t know nothing. All I know is what was on the news, which that was the truth, the only thing I knew about the situation of Stacey is what was on the news. As far as me having a relationship, you know, I wasn`t forthcoming with that. HAYES: Reed said he was trying to avoid saying something damaging. REED: I didn`t want to incriminate myself. And try to -- you know, I didn`t want to be questioned about it. You know what I`m saying? I had nothing -- I`m a black man in a small town. I`m not pulling a race card or anything like that, it`s not about that. But the nature of the -- it was a small city I lived in. You know what I`m saying? HAYES: Almost a year after Stacey Stites is killed, Rodney Reed is charged with her rape and murder. To this day, he maintains he is innocent. (on camera): You did not kill Stacey Stites? REED: I had nothing to do with this case, nothing at all. Absolutely nothing at all. HAYES (voice-over): Rodney`s family hires a private attorney to represent him but the legal bills proved to be too much. Reed is then appointed two attorneys by the state. During the trial, the defense team points to the possibility of another killer. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Prosecutors say DNA evidence will prove Rodney Reed did it. The defense told the jury there is plenty of reasonable doubt. It could have been Stacey`s fiance, a police officer who would know how to cover up a crime. DAVE HARMON, REPORTER: It was raised immediately by the defense. That was a big part of their case. She threw out two potential killers, with Jimmy Fennell being her -- kind of main option. HAYES (on camera): He then takes the stand, right? HARMON: Yes. Day two, he`s on the stand. HAYES: Did you find him credible? What effect do you think he had on the jury? HARMON: I though he was believable. HAYES (voice-over): Reed`s legal team does not present witnesses to challenge the forensic evidence. They lay out a case that hinges on what Reed says was a secret affair between him and Stites. But they are not able to produce anyone to reliably corroborate that account. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At the beginning of this trial, the defense said that they could prove Rodney Reed and Stacey Stites were having a secret sexual affair that could account for the DNA evidence found in her body. But no witnesses ever testified directly that they knew about such an affair. HARMON: If you can explain the presence of the DNA through a secret affair between the two of them, then to me, that`s reasonable doubt. The problem is, when it came time for the defense to present that evidence, I think the one witness that I remember got up there and said, Stacey had come to the house looking for Rodney, she got Stacey`s name wrong, called her Stephanie at first. The lawyer had to ask her, what was the name again? And then she couldn`t confirm that there was a relationship between the two of them. Just that she had come looking for Rodney. So, the defense was never able to present a witness that said, yes, these two had a thing going. HAYES: The state makes their case, relying entirely on the DNA match, telling the jury it`s the Cinderella slipper in this case, and it only fits one person. There`s only one person in the world who could have done this, and he`s sitting over there. The jury finds Rodney Reed guilty with two counts of capital murder, for the abduction and rape of Stacey Stites. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The guilty verdict is welcome news for Stites family, but they are not celebrating. CRYSTAL DOBBS, SISTER OF STACEY STITES: A tragedy that just affected so many family members and friends and it is a very sad, very sad day. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel for his family. Obviously he had people that loved him too, and it`s hard to lose someone. HAYES (on camera): When they said guilty, what did you think? REED: It was kind of a non-feeling. I really can`t express how -- what I was thinking, it seems like -- you know, what next? You know, what the hell is really going on? I wasn`t going to act out or nothing like that, it was on my mind. It was just unbelievable. I don`t believe this. HAYES (voice-over): In Texas, a capital murder trial is followed by a punishment phase, in which the jury decides whether or not a person should be put to death by the state. The state can offer evidence of prior bad acts, regardless of whether the person in question has previously been charged with or finally convicted of the crime or act. Five women take the stand against Reed, each alleging he had sexually assaulted them. After just four hours of deliberation by the jury, he is sentenced to death. Rodney Reed is moved to Livingston Texas, death row. Almost a decade later, a new development. Jimmy Fennell, a police officer and Stites` fiance, is accused of kidnapping a woman, driving her to a recreation area and raping her. He pled guilty to kidnapping and improper sexual activity with the person in custody. And today he is serving a 10-year sentence in a Texas prison. (on camera): You hear about Jimmy Fennell`s plea years later. HARMON: Yes. HAYES: What went through your mind then? Because I think people that get the case, that come to it afterwards, you know, if you`re back in that jury room, and they`re saying this cop killed his fiancee, you`re thinking, that seems like a stretch? HARMON: Right. HAYES: If you come to the case later, it seems a little more plausible? HARMON: Yes, I remember thinking, we had no idea what Jimmy Fennell was capable of in 1998. I wonder what a jury would have done if they had known about that at the time. It makes you think a lot harder about whether Jimmy Fennell could have done it. (END VIDEOTAPE) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HAYES (voice-over): There are thousands of people in prison or on death row that say they are innocent. And some of them actually are. The Innocence Project takes on only a select number of cases. Texas death row inmate Rodney Reed is one of them. REED: I don`t entertain the idea of being executed. If it happens, it happens, you know? But I`m not looking for that to happen. HAYES: Key to the Innocence Project`s defense of Rodney Reed are questions about the state`s time line of the death surrounding 19-year-old Stacey Stites. And the man who originally gave that timeline to investigators, Jimmy Fennell, the local police officer and the fiance of the victim. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The body of 19-year-old Stacey Stites was found along a roadside. She had been raped and strangled. HAYES: Investigators questioned Fennell and he gives them what he says is his recollection of the previous night`s events. That helped shape the state`s timeline, which the prosecution used in an opening at Rodney Reed`s trial Stacey went to bed in the apartment she and Fennell shared in Giddings, Texas, at about 8:30 because she had to get up to go to work the next morning to be there at 3:30 a.m.. Work was nearly about 30 miles away. And she was planning on driving Fennell`s truck to get there. Jimmy stayed up, watched TV and eventually went to bed himself. She would set her alarm every morning for 2:45 and leave the house at 3:00 a.m. According to the state, nothing unusual that morning, alarm set at normal time, off she went. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nineteen-year-old Stacey Stites never made it to work at the Bastrop HEB one early morning, just weeks before her wedding day. HAYES: Fennell`s truck is later found by a local patrol officer 5:23 p.m. abandoned by the Bastrop high school. Back at the department, the state says Stacey`s frantically mother calls Jimmy to tell him her daughter has not made it in to work. Around 2:45 p.m., a land appraiser discovers Stacey`s body, along the side of a rural country road and miles away from the truck. The lead investigator later admits during the trial that the apartment Stites and Fennell shared was never searched by authorities. Following an autopsy, the medical examiner gives an estimated time of death, 3:00 a.m. Authorities consider Fennell a suspect and he is later asked to take a polygraph test. Among the questions, did you strangle Stacey Stites on April 23, 1996? Fennell`s answer, "no". That response given by Fennell is found to be deceptive by a test investigator. Months later, Fennell takes another test and once again as detailed in the investigator`s report, gives answers found to be deceptive by the test administrator. But polygraph results are not admissible in Texas criminal court cases. And investigators eventually rule Fennel out as a suspect. Nearly a decade later, Jimmy Fennell finds himself in the public eye once again. CONNIE LEAR: Me and my boyfriend at the time, we were out in the parking lot of the apartment complex arguing and fighting and the neighbors called the cops for a noise disturbance. HAYES: October 2007, police in Georgetown, Texas are called to a potential domestic disturbance. One of the officers responding to the call is Jimmy Fennell, now a Georgetown police officer. The dispute involves 20-year-old Connie Lear (ph) and her boyfriend According to a civil lawsuit, the boyfriend is arrested by other officers at the scene. Fennell offered to protect Lear, an exotic dancer at the time, from her boyfriend by taking her to a hotel where she would be safe. Lear says that Fennell drove her to a recreational area instead. LEAR: He told me that he knew what I did, and he wanted me to dance for him. And when I told him no he -- he got mad, of course. And he threw me up against the side of his patrol car, and he took his belt off that has their weapons on it, and he laid it out across the hood of the car in front of me, started pointing out what everything was, took his issued weapon out, placed it against my head on the trunk and raped me. HAYES: Lear reports the attack. Just weeks later Fennell is indicted by a grand jury. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Georgetown sergeant Jimmy Fennell Jr. is charged with sexually assaulting a woman at gunpoint last October. HAYES: He ends up pleased guilty to kidnapping and improper sexual contact with a person in custody. Fennell is sentenced to 10 years in prison and is scheduled to be released in September 2018. Jimmy Fennell declined our request for an interview. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He cried on the stand when he talked about learning from another officer that was dead. HAYES: Jurors in Rodney Reid`s 1998 trial could not have known that a decade ladder, Jimmy Fennell would be in prison for kidnapping. What they saw at the time was a credible witness for the prosecution. DAVE HARMON, JOURNALIST: He talked a lot about multiple interrogations, good cop, bad cop techniques, being yelled at, being called names, pretty intensive interrogation from the Texas ranger that was in charge. HAYES: Jimmy Fennell was the primary source for the time line, which was corroborated by investigators and used by prosecutors in the conviction of Rodney Reed for the rape and murder of Stites. Let`s talk about the state`s time line as presented during trial and what you think the kind of holes of it are. BRYCE BENJET, RODNEY REED`S ATTORNEY: This is the issue. And this is really what`s raised by the new evidence. The state`s time line is based entirely on Jimmy Fennell who even -- under the state`s impression -- was asleep at the time. HAYES: At Reed`s trial, the Travis County medical examiner, Roberto Bairardo (ph0 gave forensic confirmation of Fennell`s time line, estimated Stites time of death 3:00 a.m. But in 2012, Bairardo (ph) recanted much of his testimony, including his original estimate of a 3:00 a.m. time of death, noting it should not have been used at trial as an accurate statement of when Stites died. According to the state`s original case against Rodney Reed, Stacey Stites was killed sometime after she left her apartment for work. BENJET: The states argument is this, is that Stacey Stites had a 3:30 a.m. shift at a grocery store. And that she would have gotten up around 2:50 or so, and would have headed out to Bastrop. Although Jimmy says that she would never stop for anyone, somehow, Rodney Reed, a stranger to her, in the middle of the night was able to get into the truck, physically overcome her, drive to the scene where her body was found, rape and murder her, leave her body in the brush, and then, abandon the truck in the Bastrop highschool parking lot, which was about a half of mile from his home. And that all happened somewhere between 3:15 or so in the morning and 5:23 in the morning. HAYES: The Innocence Project contends that evidence seen in photographs and video of the crime scene shows that Stites was killed long before the state says she left for work. BENJET: What happens after you die is that the capillaries where your blood is start to break down. And your blood begins to pool with gravity. And so, if a person has been dead and they`re lying down on the floor, they will get these very pronounced red splotches on their back and that shows the blood has pooled. Once that blood begins to pool and fixes, it stays there. That`s a process that takes four to six hours. What we see when we look at Stacey Stites body is we see this redness on the top of her arm, on her shoulder, on her neck, on the side of her face, that is inconsistent with gravity. And what a trained forensic investigator will tell you is that that is a key sign, undeniably, that this is a body that`s been moved. HAYES: That assertion is supported in affidavits given by some of the nation`s top forensic pathologists, who have reviewed the crime scene video and photographs. As Doctor Werner Spitz notes, "it is impossible that Stites was murdered and left at the scene in the two-hour time frame asserted by the state at trial. While Doctor Michael Baden concludes that the evidence demonstrates that Stites was dead before midnight on April 22nd, when she was alone with Mr. Fennell. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RONDEY REED, TEXAS DEATH ROW INMATE: I`m optimistic. I mean, the evidence is there, it`s just -- if the courts are willing to acknowledge this, you know what I`m saying? I really, I`m optimistic, I have faith. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: Rodney Reed was scheduled to die today by lethal injection. The Innocence Project says Reed did not commit the crime he was convicted of and they have the evidence to prove it. A Texas court must now decide if that evidence is powerful enough to reopen Rodney Reed`s case and keep him from being put to death by the state of Texas. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: When Rodney Reed was convicted in 1998 for the murder of Stacey Stites, he was represented at trial by state appointed lawyers that had just months to prepare their case. Now, he is being represented by an attorney from The Innocence Project, which is one of the renowned firms in the nation committed to exonerating people who have been falsely convicted. They have brought forth new analysis on the forensic evidence of the case that was not used before And joining me now, Barry Scheck, the co founder and co director of The Innocence Project. Very great to have you here. BARRY SCHECK, CO FOUNDER AND CO DIRECTOR OF THE INNOCENCE PROJECT: Good to be here. HAYES: So, there was a stay granted last week, I guess it was. How rare is a stay like that being granted by a Texas court. SCHECK: You have to have a lot of good evidence and the timeline evidence, the forensic evidence. Not just the rigor mortis, that she must have been face down for all those hours, but there`s additional evidence that when they put her body into a body bag, and there`s video tapes of that, it was flopping around. Which meant that she was no longer stiff from rigor mortis, and there was what they call purge coming out of her mouth, and, medical examiners who look at that, and these are, these are very, very esteemed medical examiners, Doctor Riddick, Doctor Baden, Doctor Spitz, will tell you that that means that she was decomposing for 20 hours. So that means she was -- HAYES: More than twenty hours pushes you all the way back midnight, 11 p.m. SCHECK: She was dead in that house with Jimmy Fennell. Right? And that is, very, very power -- So it`s rare for a Texas court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, at this kind of a stage, to grant this kind of a stay, but, we just got a statute passed in Texas, and there`s one in California, that allows people to go back into court when there`s forensic evidence that can prove innocence that was not originally brought forward at the trial. HAYES: That was passed in Texas? You wouldn`t necessarily anticipate that. SCHECK: Well it, the reason it was passed in Texas is there were a series of cases where they recognized that there was a medical examiners who made mistakes, and they went back to legislature to do it. We had a lot of exonerations in Texas. And, by the way, you know Governor Abbott, when this stay was granted, he said "I`m thankful, because I don`t want an execution in my state when there`s a serious stat raised by forensic evidence". Because remember Cameron Todd Aillingham. Cameron Todd Wilingham didn`t have that statute available. He was a man that was executed based on junk forensic science. It went all of the way through. They should have stopped it, frankly, the Texas Board of Pardon and Parole, and i think this governor recognizes after the Willingham case, after the Graves case, other cases that there`s a real risk of executing innocent people and I think he`s thankful. HAYES: Cameron Todd Willingham is a man who was convicted of arson, of burning down a house. He was, I think his wife and daughter were in that house-- SCHECK: There were 3 children. HAYES: 3 children. He was put to death. There`s very, very persuasive evidence that, that basically all the science that said it was arson was junk science. I got a chance, actually, to ask Rodney Reed about that, because he was on death row with Cameron Todd Willingham. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REED: I talked to Todd. HAYES: And he maintained his innocence. REED: He maintained his innocence. In fact, he told me that he wish he had my case because it was DNA, you know what I`m saying, they could be utilized. But as far as the science in itself, I mean, that science that established his innocence was out there, he just didn`t have those experts on his side. You know? And the state took advantage of that. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: So this gets into this question, you know, independent of the facts of Rodney Reed`s case is, we know what the standard is at trial. It`s reasonable doubt, right? Once someone has been convicted, they`ve been sentenced to death, what is the standard? I mean, what do you have to show a court to go through the extraordinary process of essentially, reopening what is a settled legal matter. SCHECK: Well, in Texas the standard is clear. They call it actual innocence, or clear and convincing evidence of innocence. So, this forensic medical examiner evidence is very, very powerful. And I think it meets that standard, and that`s the reason this case was stayed. HAYES: And so, you actually have to, you have to come forward and say we`ve got evidence of actual innocence, right? SCHECK: In texas you do, yes. HAYES: How has the process for this developed? I mean obviously we have seen largely because of The Innocence Project, I got to say, this sort of pioneering use of DNA evidence has shown us that there`s a lot of people around the country who were innocent of crimes, that demonstrably shown by the scientific evidence. How has that affected how the legal regime across the country deals with habeas corpus, with appeals. SCHECK: Well, dramatically. I mean, basically what`s happened in the last six years, six states have repealed capital punishment, which now makes, all together 18 that say it`s illegal. But, there are another eight eight states that have not executed anybody and have not given out death sentences in ten years. So, it`s falling to disuse. And governors, as we just saw in Pennsylvania, and the state of Washington, and the state of Oregon are saying I`m declaring a moratorium. HAYES: We`ve seen a decline in, we`ve seen sort of states taming their legal regime. We`ve also seen a decline in executions over time. 1999 there were 98. You see that go down... SCHECK: Down 60 percent. HAYES: Down somewhat dramatically. What are the lessons here? Broadly, from a case like Rodney Reed`s, but that`s just one of the many cases that you`ve handled. SCHECK: Well, the lesson is that there is a serious risk of executing innocent people, whether you`re for or against the death penalty, that is something that nobody can tolerate. And there is other good public policy reasons that people can debate about it. And it also, I know it is a favorite issue for you is that you don`t want to have legal restrictions that prevent you from putting on evidence of innocence that we had with the anti-death penalty in... HAYES: Passed under Clinton, which still exists to this day. Barry Scheck, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it. Right now Rodney Reed is on death row waiting to find out what the Texas court of criminal appeals decides in his case. Until the court issued a stay, Reed was scheduled to be taken from death row to the execution chamber in Huntsville, Texas and to die by lethal injection today. When I spoke with him last month, he told me firsthand what that process looks like. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REED: Before I was put on death watch, I was housed in an area where you could see the van pull in and you could see the guy, if he is out here with his last visit, you can see the team, all suited up with their helmets and the gear on, and all that stuff escorting him down and back into the building, strip him out, put him back in shackles and then put him in the van and take him to Huntsville. You know you see that whole process going on there. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: In working on this story and reporting out this case, we have tried to speak to as many people as possible. We tried to reach several members of Stacey Stites family through different avenues and were not successful. We requested interviews with several of the investigators who worked on the case, including the lead investigator, then Texas Ranger Rocky Wardluck (ph). They all declined to speak with us. The Texas attorney general`s office where prosecutor attorney Lisa Tanner is still working declined to comment. The Texas governor`s office did not respond to our request for comment. The current Bastruck County (ph) district attorney Brian Gurtz (ph) declined to speak with us on the record. And we were not successful in reaching the former Bastruck County (ph) DA Charles Pennock (Ph). All in all, after repeated requests, no one from the state would speak to us on the record for this piece. We did, however, manage to talk to many other people involved in this case, including Rodney Reed himself. I traveled to death row in Livingston, Texas to ask him about the case, about his claims of innocence and about what his life has been like for the past 16 years on death row. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HAYES: Were you scared? I mean, you know, you are told that you are being sent to go live with the worst monsters in Texas, the people who have done the most heinous acts and you`re going to be around them. REED: No, I can`t say they was scared. I can`t say that i was scared. I didn`t want to come here, but once I got here -- I mean, some of these guys who used to be someone else`s neighbor, you know, they`re someone else`s brother, you know, someone`s cousin, someone`s father, you know what I`m saying? You don`t know what may have happened in their lives that brought them here. HAYES: What is your life been like here? Like what`s a -- I mean, what`s a typical day like? REED: Well, pretty much every day pretty much repeats itself. You go in your cell, come out of your cell, you get fed through a slot such as this, you know, that type of thing. You`re confined to a small space. The routine, the daily routine, you have a program. It`s the same program every day. Not unless you want to stay in your cell and I choose to come out and exercise what little rights that I do have, you know what I"m saying, going to the day room or going outside or something like that to enjoy -- it is a small society back here. It`s a small society back in there. HAYES: So you don`t -- do you see the other inmates throughout the day? REED: Yeah, you can see them. I mean, if you`re in your cell, depending on where your cell is -- like right now the cell that I`m in, I`m a corner, so if someone is in the day room I can talk to them from my cell, but then, you know, you`ve got like -- I don`t know if you can see that window on that door over there with the little slit, you know, what I`m saying... HAYES: So you can yell out? REED: Yeah. But then you kind of just, out of respect, at a certain time you can`t do that all throughout the night, because you have people certainly things -- with things on their minds and they`re busy doing other things or someone else is trying to talk to someone. HAYES: So what you`re saying is there is one open public space in which people would have conversations and you can`t be the one... REED: So your conversation is not private. HAYES: But you also can`t be the one who is always having that conversation space because that means you`re taking it from someone else. REED: N. But if no one is talking, then, hey, the floor is yours. I don`t know -- we have an opportunity to go outside and have recreation outside, but then it is like a divider between two sides. And there is only two guys outside at a time. HAYES: And you`re out with someone else. REED: Also. HAYES: And you can talk to them then. REED: You can talk to them, yeah. And they`re like a basketball, one on each side. And there is basketball on each side. And it would be kind of like -- you know, you can play a game to tens, see who can make the first ten shots, you know, running back and forth, trying to keep, you know, yourself mentally in shape, you know, physically in shape. HAYES: Do you have friendships that have been born here? REED: I don`t use that word loosely -- friends -- friendship. I mean, I have guys that I associate with because when you go as far as making a friend, there are feeling there is that if you know what I a true friend is, you know what I`m saying, and the next thing you know the state is going to take them, it`s more than likely the friend -- the state is going to kill him. So I don`t get as close as calling someone my friend. HAYES: What is it like on a day -- an execution day? REED: Well, most of those days are pretty quiet. There`s not a lot of -- it depends, it really depends, but from my point most of those days are pretty quite, you know what I`m saying, because you know what`s happening is real, this is real, it`s not like TV where someone is killed in a movie and then he made some money and he went home back to his family. This is real. They`re really killing people here in Texas. (END VIDEOTAPE) HAYES: What I learned from months of investigating Rodney Reed`s case, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: I spent the last two months pouring over Rodney Reed`s case and I still do not know if he is innocent or guilty of the crime that put him on death row. There`s a lot of really disturbing allegations against him independent of that crime. What I do know is that I don`t really trust the criminal justice system in Texas, or anyone else, frankly, in a nation that puts more people behind bars than almost any other country on Earth, a nation where over the past 40 years, nearly 150 people on death row have been exonerated. I also know that immersing myself in the details of this case has only strengthened my conviction that the state has no business killing people. And what I strongly feel, though of course I can`t say this for sure, is that if we can get in a time machine and go back to 1998 when Rodney Reed was on trial for the rape and murder of Stacey Stites, and we could give Reed access to the best criminal defense that money could buy in the state of Texas, or even just give him access to his current legal team, I have a very hard time believing he would have ended up facing execution by the state. And if that is true, if that is what determines justice in this country, then it is not justice at all. This has been All In America: The 11th Hour. The Rachel Maddow Show starts now. Good evening, Rachel. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END