“State vs. Reed” is a 60 minute documentary that explores an explosive capital murder trial in Texas that has resulted in a questionable death penalty conviction of Bastrop, Texas’ Rodney Reed. Thank you to the filmmakers, Frank Bustoz and Ryan Polomski, for making this important film available online. Thanks to the Texas Students Against the Death Penalty blog and Hooman Hedayati for the heads up. The Austin chapter of Campaign to End the Death Penalty has been working with the Reed family for years to prove Rodney’s innocence.
Reed, a then-28 year-old black male with a minor criminal record, was convicted in 1998 of the murder of Stacey Stites, a 19 year-old finacee’ of a local police officer named Jimmy Fennell. Read more about the film in this Austin Chronicle article. Though Fennell was the primary suspect for over a year who failed two polygraph examinations, Reed was eventually arrested after DNA found on the victim was connected to him. Reed claims that he and the victim, who was Caucasian, shared a consensual sexual affair for over 6 months and that an encounter the night before would account for the finding of his DNA as well as a possible motive for the real killer. “State vs. Reed” dives into this complex and potentially benchmark case that still rattles the citizens of this small Central Texas town. By talking to those who knew best — friends of the victim and family of the defendent, investigators, lawyers, journalists and Reed himself, on Texas’ notorious Death Row — the award winning documentary reveals a case fraught with open questions and unusual coincidences. Ultimately, the documentary reveals the mistake-prone system that sentences men and woman to death in the state of Texas at a rate incomparable around the world.
Filmmakers Frank Bustoz and Ryan Polomski are first-time feature filmmakers, though have worked in the medium in central Texas for years. Previously, they have worked on the internationally screened short documentary, “Hecho a Mano: Tres Historias de Guatemala”. “State vs. Reed” premiered at the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival where it won the Lone Star States Audience Award. It has since been screened multiple times in the central Texas area, including the Kerrville Community Center in Bastrop, the Bastrop Public Access Channel (for seven straight nights), the George Washing Carver Museum and Cultural Center in east Austin, and as part of the Amnesty Interntional Film Festival on the University of Texas campus.