[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Nov 19 16:27:34 CST 2004
NATIONAL COALITION TO ABOLISH THE DEATH PENALTY----PRESS RELEASE
CONTACT: David Elliot, NCADP Communications Director
202-543-9577, ext. 16
delliot at ncadp.org
920 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
Washington, D.C. 20003
NCADP URGES TEXAS OFFICIALS TO HALT DEC. 1 EXECUTION; SAYS COURTS MUST
REVIEW STRONG CLAIM OF INNOCENCE
Frances Newton, out of Harris County, would be 1st African American woman
to be executed in modern Texas history
The state of Texas is prepared to carry out the first execution of an
African American woman in modern state history despite resounding
questions of whether she is guilty and whether she received a fair trial.
Frances Newton faces execution Dec. 1 for the murder of her husband,
Adrian Newton, and her children, Alton and Farah Newton in Harris County.
Forensics evidence used to convict Newton is highly questionable and tests
at the crime scene concluded that the Newton had not fired a weapon the
night her husband and children were shot to death.
"Newton's case embodies the core problems with the death penalty in
Texas," said Diann Rust-Tierney, executive director of the National
Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. "Her trial counsel was egregiously
incompetent, she has a strong innocence claim and her conviction rested in
large part on the results of ballistics testing conducted by the
now-discredited Houston Police Department's crime lab."
Newton joins a growing list of people on death row from Harris County who
have raised questions about forensic testing used in their convictions.
This list includes:
****Nanon Williams. Williams was convicted and sentenced to death despite
the fact that a Houston Police Department firearms examiner misidentified
the type of gun used in the commission of a murder. Williams did not own
the type of gun that was used.
****Johnnie Bernal. A HPD firearms examiner deviated from professional
norms of ballistics examination by firing 25 test-fires rather than the
customary two or three, and even applied a solution to the barrel of the
gun mid-test in an effort to obtain a ballistics match.
****Anibal Rousseau. Rousseau was sentenced to death despite the fact that
a file, located by Rousseau's habeas counsel 12 years after Rousseau
arrived on death row, revealed exculpatory ballistics evidence in the
possession of HPD and the Harris County district attorney's office.
NCADP and its Texas affiliate, the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death
Penalty, joined Newton's legal team in calling for a 120-day stay of
execution so that evidence of her innocence may be pursued. Such evidence
would include additional forensic tests as well as gathering information
from other people who might be tied to the crime.
Rust-Tierney noted that Newton's hands were tested the evening of the
murders for the existence of gunpowder residue. This test, called an
atomic absorption test, was conducted just hours after the shootings and
found that there was no gunpowder residue present. Newton's lawyers argue
that even if Newton had washed her hands after the crime, it would have
been impossible to remove all gunpowder residue.
NOTE TO REPORTERS, EDITORS AND PRODUCERS: To receive a copy of Newton's
39-page clemency application, please email David Elliot at
delliot at ncadp.org
"Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun once wrote that the execution of a
person who can show he is innocent comes perilously close to simple
murder, "Rust-Tierney said. "Frances Newton has never had the opportunity
to demonstrate she is innocence, not for a lack of facts but for lack of a
fair and objective forum. All we want is an opportunity for her state her
case, backed by competent counsel and a thorough investigation."
Texas has carried out 23 executions thus far this year, and 336 since it
resumed capital punishment in 1982. This represents almost 36 % of the
total executions carried out in the United States since executions were
allowed to resume in 1976
More supervision needed in state hospitals, prisons
Sometimes unrelated events, linked only by their proximity in the news,
combine to send a single, unambiguous message. Such is the case with
several recent stories concerning inappropriate sexual behavior in Texas
places of confinement, and in their administration.
For the second time, a schizophrenic woman confined in a state hospital
for the mentally ill has become pregnant, apparently by another inmate.
The pregnancies are acutely problematic because the patient was confined
after strangling her first child and throwing the body in Buffalo Bayou.
She was acquitted by reason of insanity.
Her 2nd child, conceived in Rusk State Hospital, is living with a
grandmother. The 2rd, conceived in San Antonio State Hospital, is expected
to be put up for adoption after its birth.
In September, Chronicle reporter Andrew Tilghman told the story of a
5-year-old girl who was conceived on Texas' death row, the offspring of a
condemned inmate and a guard. Since that child was born, death row inmates
have been moved to new facilities and kept in individual cells 23 hours a
The state hospitals are not prisons or places of punishment. Patients are
there for treatment and cannot be locked away or otherwise treated in a
manner not conducive to mental health. However, two undesirable and
perhaps dangerous pregnancies indicate the need for closer supervision.
Finally, there comes a story that might be the most disturbing of the
three. Five women employed by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
have accused a 25-year prison administrator of sexual misconduct. The
administrator faces felony charges of sexually assaulting 3 of the women,
and four misdemeanor charges of official oppression. The attorney for two
of the women says employees who complain of sexual harassment frequently
are transferred, demoted or fired.
Bad things happen in prisons. When supervision is lax, bad behavior is
guaranteed. If the administration itself has a culture of turning a blind
eye to sexual abuse, a housecleaning is called for.
(source: Editorial, Houston Chronicle)
Kunkle escapes death again----Execution held off until case reviewed
The U.S. Supreme Court stayed the execution of Troy Kunkle on Thursday,
making it the second time the high court has stepped in on the day of his
execution. The news came 30 minutes after Kunkle was scheduled to die at 6
The days before reprieve
12:10 a.m. Kunkle listening to music on bunk
3 a.m. Kunkle sleeping
6:38 a.m. Kunkle standing at cell door talking
8:17 a.m. Kunkle escorted to visitation
Noon Kunkle visiting
5 p.m. Kunkle escorted back to cell
7:45 p.m. Kunkle showering
11:05 p.m. Kunkle sleeping
12:28 a.m. Kunkle sleeping
4 a.m. Kunkle writing
8:10 a.m. Kunkle escorted to visitation
10:45 a.m. Kunkle visiting
1:40 p.m. Kunkle escorted back to cell
4:15 p.m. Kunkle standing at cell door talking
6:20 p.m. Kunkle standing at cell door talking
11:30 p.m. Kunkle sitting on bunk listening to music
12:04 a.m. Kunkle sleeping
4:37 a.m. Kunkle standing at cell door
6:16 a.m. Kunkle packing property
8:10 a.m. Kunkle escorted to visitation
10:36 a.m. Kunkle visiting
11:53 a.m. Visitation terminated
4 p.m. Kunkle eating last meal
6 p.m. Kunkle awaits execution, which generally is set for 6 p.m.
6:30 p.m. news of reprieve received
(source: Texas Department of Criminal Justice)
4 of 5 Supreme Court justices - William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Anthony
Kennedy and Clarence Thomas - voted to go forward with the execution. But
the majority vote - by Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter,
Sandra Day O'Connor and John Paul Stevens - saved Kunkle's life for now.
The stay is for the undetermined amount of time the justices will take to
review Kunkle's petition.
Kunkle's lawyers contended that Kunkle's jury, and others in Texas, was
not allowed to consider mitigating circumstances during the sentencing
phase of the trial after guilt was determined. The argument was largely
the same as the one made to the U.S. Supreme Court in July, when Kunkle's
execution was stayed for the 4th time. Changes to the law since then
allowed the lawyers to submit another petition.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and the Texas Court of Criminal
Appeals declined to stay the execution earlier this week for the same
reasons, but the Supreme Court again spared Kunkle's life. Thursday marked
the fifth time Kunkle's execution date was stayed. The last time was July
7, which also was the same day as his scheduled execution.
Kunkle, 38, was found guilty of capital murder in 1984.
Members of murder victim Steven Horton's family, who were waiting for news
at his parents' Corpus Christi house, said they were frustrated by the
"We've been waiting for this to take place for quite a while," Horton's
sister Brenda LaCour said. "They execute other people with shorter stays
(in prison). I don't understand why we have to wait this long."
Horton's parents, Nolan and Mary Horton, were away from their house and
had not immediately heard the news, LaCour said.
Thursday was the closest Kunkle ever came to death by lethal injection,
said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons.
Lyons said Kunkle was surprised by the news.
"He used one word to sum up what he was feeling, 'Ecstatic,'" Lyons said.
"He was truly speechless."
Lyons said Kunkle already had been served his last meal but had not eaten
much of it.
When prison officials received word from the court, Kunkle was taken from
Huntsville's Walls Unit, home of the execution chamber, back to death row
from in Livingston.
Kunkle's wife, Christa Haber Kunkle, said in e-mails before the execution
that the man she recently married had found God on death row, had thought
regretfully every day about Horton and had been "ready to leave this world
According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Kunkle, who was 18
at the time of Horton's murder, along with his friends Lora Lee Zaiontz,
Russell Stanley and Aaron Adkins were visiting Corpus Christi from San
Antonio in 1984. They picked up Steven Horton, 31, who was walking along
Paul Jones Avenue. They demanded his wallet, which contained $13.
Kunkle, according to the state's report, then told Stanley to kill Horton.
When Stanley refused, Kunkle took the .22-caliber pistol and shot Horton
in the head.
At the time of the killing, Kunkle reportedly quoted lyrics from heavy
metal band Metallica's song "No Remorse," from the album "Kill 'em All,"
when he said, "Another day, another death, another sorrow, another
All 4 reportedly had taken LSD and had been drinking. They eventually were
convicted of murder. Besides Kunkle, only Zaiontz remains incarcerated,
prison officials said. The others were released.
Kunkle would have been the 24th person to be executed in Texas this year.
As of Thursday, 1 more execution is scheduled for this year.
(source: Corpus Christi Caller-Times)
Man is convicted in S. Side murder
Jurors took a little more than 2 1/2 hours Thursday to find Joe Louie
Glover guilty of capital murder in the slaying of Larry Eng at the Wah Lee
Food Market on the near South Side.
Eng's wife, Lai-Chun, was wounded in the Oct. 9, 2003, attack, which took
place after the longtime neighborhood store owners were robbed of about
As 144th District Judge Mark Luitjen read the verdict, Glover showed no
emotion and stood calmly beside defense attorneys Ray Fuchs and Joel
Afterward, Larry Eng's brother Ronald gave a brief statement on behalf of
the family, which has followed the trial since it started Monday.
"I'm just thankful that justice has been done, and I'm thankful that the
jurors were not swayed by the contradictory arguments of the defense
attorneys," he said.
Marie Sanchez, the defendant's wife, declined to comment as she made her
way out of the Cadena-Reeves Justice Center with the couple's four young
children and other family members.
The punishment phase of the trial will resume at 10:30 a.m. today.
Prosecutors Mary Green and Samantha DiMaio said they would be asking
jurors to sentence Glover, 25, to death by lethal injection.
Jurors also will have the option to sentence the defendant to prison for
five to 99 years or life, in which case the earliest he would be eligible
for parole would be in 20 years.
When asked for his client's reaction, Perez said, "He didn't have any
"We'll get ready for (today) to put on our evidence," Perez said, adding
he did not want to divulge the defense strategy for keeping Glover off
The brutal slaying - at the store on Mission Road and Sayers Avenue,
across from the Riverside Park Municipal Golf Course - drew an outpouring
of grief and sympathy from the Harlandale community.
Larry Eng, 55, was a graduate of Harlandale High School and attended Texas
A&M University before transferring to Texas A&I University, in Kingsville.
He graduated with degrees in chemical engineering and business.
Lai-Chun, now 52, emigrated from Hong Kong 26 years ago to marry Eng. The
couple have three children, including 2 sons attending Texas A&M and a
daughter who is an A&M graduate.
After surviving the attack, Lai-Chun Eng closed the store and went to live
with her daughter in Houston.
Testimony during the trial centered on the fact that a month after the
robbery, an informant arrested for shoplifting told police he had watched
a news report about the crime with Glover, and that Glover let on that he
committed it himself.
Glover was arrested Nov. 7, 2003, on outstanding municipal warrants.
But he was charged with Eng's slaying after a search of Glover's near West
Side home turned up a box of Chinese ammunition matching the bullet
casings and slugs found in the food store, and after giving police a
(source: San Antonio Express-News)
USA (Texas) -- Frances Elaine Newton (f), black, aged 38
Frances Newton is scheduled to be executed in Texas on 1 December 2004.
She was convicted in October 1988 of the murder of her husband and two
children in April 1987.
Frances Newton, convicted on circumstantial evidence, maintains that she
did not kill her husband and children. Her current lawyers, who have only
recently taken the case, are appealing for a 120-day reprieve of execution
in order to be able to properly investigate her claim, an investigation
they say has not been carried out to date because of the inadequacy of her
prior legal representation.
On 7 April 1987, a police officer responding to a report of a possible
shooting in a Houston apartment complex found 21- year-old Frances Newton
in her apartment with her cousin, Sondra Nelms. Also in the apartment were
the bodies of Frances Newton's husband, Adrian Newton, her seven-year-old
son, Alton, and 21-month-old daughter, Farrah. All three victims had been
At the trial, Sondra Nelms testified that on the night of the shootings
Frances Newton had placed a bag in another house shortly before the two of
them went to the Newton's apartment where they found the bodies. The bag
was later found to contain a gun, and testimony at the trial indicated
that it was the murder weapon. An expert testified that the lower front
part of Frances Newton's skirt contained nitrites, consistent with a gun
having been fired close to it. An insurance agent testified that in March
1987 Frances Newton had purchased a life insurance policy on herself, her
husband and her daughter.
The petition for a 120-day reprieve argues that the testimony of the
state's trial witnesses, taken together, suggests that either Frances
Newton was not in the apartment at the time of the shooting, or that if
she was she would have had, at most, 20 minutes to shoot her husband and
children, clean herself up, compose herself, and leave the apartment to go
to her cousin's home. There was no blood found on Frances Newton's
clothing, hands, or car, despite the fact that the victims had been shot
at close range. No gunpowder residue was found on her hands or sweater.
There was also no evidence that someone had undertaken a cleanup at the
Frances Newton was prosecuted in Harris County, where the city of Houston
is located. In March 2003, an independent audit of the Houston Police
Department (HPD) crime laboratory revealed serious defects in the lab's
DNA analysis section, including poorly trained staff relying on outdated
scientific techniques. Several cases suggest that the lab's problems
extended beyond its DNA section, for example into its ballistics
expertise. (see Dead wrong: The case of Nanon Williams, child offender
facing execution on flawed evidence,
The ballistics evidence central to the Newton case was processed at the
HPD. On 21 October 2004, a judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
said that there should be ''a moratorium on all executions in cases where
convictions were based on evidence from the HPD crime lab until the
reliability of the evidence has been verified''. A Texas Senator and the
Houston police chief have made similar calls.
At the trial, forensic experts testified that the nitrites found on
Frances Newton's skirt could have come from fertilizer. During the day of
the murder, Farrah Newton had stayed with her uncle while her mother was
at work. The uncle had a large garden, which could account for the
transfer of fertilizer particles to the lower front side of Frances
Newton's skirt. Her lawyers argue that a 120-day reprieve could be used to
conduct further forensic testing to establish whether in fact the gun was
the murder weapon or the nitrites on the skirt were derived from a source
other than gunpowder residue.
According to the reprieve petition, Adrian Newton was a drug user and drug
seller and there is evidence that some sort of trouble in this regard was
brewing before the murder. This was the reason Frances Newton gave for
removing the gun she had found in their apartment. However, the police
apparently did not investigate the possibility that the murders were
Sondra Nelms, who was with Frances Newton immediately after she was
supposed to have shot her husband and children, has signed an affidavit
expanding on her trial testimony. She describes Frances Newton's shock and
horror at finding the bodies (a reaction confirmed by the police at the
scene) and concludes that ''I know in my heart that after watching the
reaction of Frances upon discovering her husband and children, there is
absolutely no way she had any involvement in their deaths."
Texas accounts for 336 of the 944 executions carried out in the USA since
1977, 81 of whom were prosecuted in Harris County. Amnesty International
opposes the death penalty in all cases, regardless of guilt or innocence.
Since 1973, 117 people have been released from US death rows after
evidence of their innocence emerged. Others have gone to their deaths
despite serious doubts about their guilt.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible,
in your own words, including Frances Newton's prisoner number, #922, in
- expressing concern about the reliability of Frances Newton's conviction;
- noting that Frances Newton was prosecuted in Harris County and
ballistics evidence central to the state's case was processed at the
troubled Houston Police Department crime laboratory;
- calling on the Board and the Governor to stop this execution;
- calling for, at minimum a 120-day reprieve to allow Frances Newton's
claim of innocence to be properly investigated;
- calling for commutation of the death sentence.
Rissie Owens, Presiding Officer, Board of Pardons and Paroles, 1300 11th
St., Suite 520, P.O. Box 599, Huntsville, TX 77342-0599 Fax: 1 936 291
8367, Salutation: Dear Ms Owens
Elvis Hightower, Board Member, Board of Pardons and Paroles, 1300 11th
St., Suite 520, P.O. Box 599, Huntsville, TX 77342-0599 Fax: 1 936 291
8367, Salutation: Dear Mr Hightower
Charles Aycock, Board of Pardons and Paroles, 5809 S. Western, Suite 237,
Amarillo, TX 79110 Fax: 1 806 358 6455, Salutation: Dear Mr Aycock
Linda Garcia, Board of Pardons and Paroles, 1212 N. Velasco, Suite 201,
Angleton, TX 77515 Fax: 1 979 849 8741, Salutation: Dear Ms Garcia
Juanita Gonzalez, Board of Pardons and Paroles, 3408 S. State Hwy. 36,
Gatesville, TX 76528 Fax: 1 254 865 2629, Salutation: Dear Ms Gonzalez
Jose L. Aliseda, Board of Pardons and Paroles, 1111 West Lacy St.,
Palestine, TX 75801 Fax: 1 903 723 1441, Salutation: Dear Mr Aliseda
Governor Rick Perry, Office of the Governor, PO Box 12428, Austin, Texas
78711-2428 Fax: 1 512 463 1849. Salutation: Dear Governor
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY.
Amnesty International is a worldwide grassroots movement that promotes and
defends human rights.
This Urgent Action may be reposted if kept intact, including contact
information and stop action date (if applicable). Thank you for your help
with this appeal.
Urgent Action Network
Amnesty International USA
PO Box 1270
Nederland CO 80466-1270
Email: uan at aiusa.org
Phone: 303 258 1170
Fax: 303 258 7881
END OF URGENT ACTION APPEAL
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