FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 24, 2008
Debbie Russell, 512.573.xxxx; president, ACLU-TX Central Texas Chapter (CTCLU);
Stefanie Collins, 512.784-xxxx, member, CTCLU (present at hearing)
----------------CTCLU responds to Fennell plea bargain rejection----------------
COURT SEES NEED FOR FENNELL TRIAL; MORE REASON RODNEY REED NEEDS A RE-TRIAL!
Former Georgetown police officer Jimmy Fennell pleaded guilty on May 20 to one count of kidnapping and one count of improper sexual activity with a person in custody (a disturbingly understated charge). That a District Judge denied the plea bargain provides hope for some justice in this case but the deal exposes the District Attorney's complete lack of will to adequately hold law enforcement accountable for their crimes when they should be held to higher standards as officers of the law. If Mr. Fennell were an everyday man of color with the same alleged history of violence and stalking, the deal might not have been so giving. In a just system, an officer's abuse of the power granted to him by the state should move the state to seek at least the same punishment that any citizen would receive.
It seems Judge Carnes saw through the too-lenient deal which reinforces the need for Rodney Reed to have his appeal granted. Fennell was a prime suspect in the murder of Stacey Stites, which Reed sits on death row for. What we now know of Fennell's pattern of abuse coupled with this recent admission of guilt for such a violent crime should provide the appellate court much doubt as to Reed's guilt, especially considering the alleged suppressed evidence by former Bastrop DA Charles Penick during that trial.
As indicated by our name, the ACLU-TX Central Texas Chapter is committed to monitoring law enforcement in the central Texas region, not just in Austin. We are currently studying recently submitted open records requests at the Georgetown Police Department. Their hiring of Fennell, in addition to other recent actions by GPD, raises many questions about their policies, patterns, practices and their apparent lack of applying discipline. It also highlights the dangerous lack of information available to departments about misconduct history due to state civil service law limitations.