death penalty news-----USA-----December Execution Alert
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Nov 22 13:28:24 CST 2004
DECEMBER 2004 EXECUTION ALERTS
Dec. 1: Frances Newton (TX):
Dec. 2: George Banks (PA):
Dec. 3: Charles Walker (NC):
Dec. 1, 2004
Take Action at:
Texas Plans First Execution of African-American Woman in Modern Era
The state of Texas is scheduled to execute Frances Newton on Dec. 1 for the
April 1987 murders of her husband, Adrian Newton and children Alton and
Farah Newton in Harris County. If executed, Newton would be the first
African-American woman Texas has put to death since the state resumed
executions in 1982.
Newton's case embodies the core problems with the death penalty in the
United States in general and in Texas in particular. 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.
Furthermore, Newton has been denied effective representation at every stage
of her appeal and consequently, her case has never been thoroughly or
independently investigated. In fact, on the very day her trial began, her
attorney, Ron Mock, admitted that he could not provide the name of a single
witness with whom he had spoken. Mock is well known in Texas death penalty
circles; he has had more clients sent to death row than any other lawyer.
Many of his former clients already have been executed and he is no longer
assigned death penalty cases because of his astonishingly abysmal record as
Newton, who was 21 at the time of the crime, took out a life insurance
policy on her husband, herself, and her daughter less than a month before
the crimes were committed. This action led many to believe she killed the
victims in order to collect life insurance benefits. Newton also was
reportedly having marital problems with her husband which the state further
concluded to be evidence against her. However, as Newton's current attorneys
have pointed out, there is a complex and overwhelming array of facts and
circumstances that call into question the integrity and accuracy of her
First, Newton was convicted of killing her seven-year old son Alton Newton
although he was not covered by a life insurance policy. The state was not
able to provide a viable motive for his death. She also allegedly killed
her 20-month old daughter for an additional $50,000 in insurance benefits.
While a problematic marital situation may serve as motive for Newton's
husband's murder, the killing of her two children is still speculative and
largely unexplained by the state.
Second, the Houston Police Department's crime lab, which conducted
ballistics testing on the weapon the state believes was used in the murder,
is now widely regarded as extraordinarily unreliable. Without the crime
lab's ballistics report, it is extremely doubtful that Newton's case would
even have gone to trial, much less resulted in a capital murder conviction
and death sentence.
Third, the state presented conflicting evidence regarding the timing of the
murders and the likelihood Newton was home at the time they took place.
Based on what the state presented, it is highly possible that another
individual could have been at the residence at the time of the shooting. The
state's evidence does not exclude this possibility in any way.
Fourth, the state has not investigated the possibility that another suspect
or suspects may have been involved in the murders. Police were in possession
of information that Adrian Newton was known to be a drug dealer and was in
debt to a supplier. Despite this information, apparently police never
investigated the possibility that the deaths were drug-related.
Fifth, the only other physical evidence in the case was the presence of
nitrates found on the lower part of the dress Newton was wearing. However,
while the state argued that the presence of nitrates indicated gun powder
residue, other possible sources include fertilizer and cosmetics. It has
been established that Newton's toddler was exposed to fertilizer earlier
that day. Furthermore, Newton's hands were tested for gunpowder residue the
evening of the murders; none was found, despite the fact that gunpowder
residue cannot be washed away or quickly removed from skin after a gun has
Newton's clemency team is taking the unusual step of not asking the Board of
Pardons and Paroles to recommend clemency in Newton's case, but rather to
recommend to Gov. Perry a 120-day reprieve so that more investigation can be
To say that the evidence in her case is lacking and her prior representation
shoddy would consist of understatement. Francis Newton needs more time for
additional ballistics testing to be conducted - this time, by credible
Please take a moment to write Gov. Perry and the Board of Pardons and
Paroles asking them not to execute Newton and to grant, at minimum, a
120-day reprieve so that her counsel may conduct a proper investigation.
Dec. 2, 2004
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The state of Pennsylvania is scheduled to execute George Banks Dec. 2 for
the Sept. 25, 1982 murders of 13 people in Luzerene County.
The victims include Regina Clemens, Susan Yuhas, Dorothy Lyons, Nancy Lyons,
Mauritania Banks, Bowendy Banks, Montanzima Banks, Forarounde Banks, Ray
Hall, Jr., Sharon Mazzillo, Kissamayu Banks, Alice Mazzillo, Scott Mazzillo.
Among the list of victims seven were children, five of which were his own.
Banks is seriously mentally ill and was not competent to stand trial. He
committed the mass murders in the wake of a mental break down with a weapon
he obtained for what he perceived to be an inevitable race war. One
psychiatrist who examined him called Banks "terminally paranoid," saying he
had "lost touch with reality on a great many things."
The "illegitimate" son of a bi-racial couple, Banks grew up in an all-white
neighborhood where he was subjected to racial prejudice from both his white
and black peers. He reportedly endured endless racial slurs and various
forms of prejudice throughout his life.
Plagued by insecurity, persecution and anger, Banks felt rejected by all
people, and viewed himself as "a man without a race." His mental health
worsened and persecution complex grew and he became obsessed with paranoid
By the summer of 1982, Banks had begun talking to fellow guards at work
about committing mass killings, preparing his children for warfare, and
committing suicide. Upon learning this, on Sept. 6, 1982 prison officials
sent Banks home on extended sick leave to seek psychiatric help. Camp Hill
authorities then contacted Luzerne-Wyoming County's Mental Health-Mental
Retardation Center in Wilkes-Barre, requesting assistance for Banks. They
scheduled a psychiatric evaluation for Sept. 29, 1982. Kenneth Robinson, a
former spokesman for Camp Hill, stated, "He was removed and put on sick
leave by the institution as a reaction to the incident (suicide threat)."
During the trial, Banks continued to insist that he was not mentally ill and
demanded to testify. Banks' attorneys worried that the jury would consider
him sane if he testified. Still, Banks ignored them and took the stand,
saying his testimony was the only chance he had "to pull the mask off the
Like many individuals suffering from mental illness Banks clearly showed
that he was incapable of empowering his attorneys to effectively represent
him. Once permitted to testify at trial, Banks coolly and comfortably
launched into a rambling, disjointed account of the night of the killings.
He voiced his opinion that the police, in a racist conspiracy against him,
fired the fatal bullets into some of the victims after he had left them
wounded. To prove this theory, Banks wanted to exhume the bodies of the
victims for forensic examination. Then he showed the jury the gruesome
photographs of the victims, photographs that his attorneys had fought to
keep out of the jury's view. The pictures, Banks said, would "prove my
theory of a police conspiracy." During Banks' testimony, Assistant Public
Defender Al Flora, Jr., reportedly lowered his head and wept in frustration.
Since 1984, Banks has been sent to a state prison psychiatric hospital six
times and has been prescribed 15 different psychotropic medications. He has
attempted suicide at least six times and has gone on prolonged hunger
strikes, bringing his weight down to nearly 100 pounds and requiring force
feeding. He contends that Jesus Christ is in Washington D.C. and has
written to Jesus in Washington for advice on whether or not to continue
fasting. Banks maintains the belief that all his sentences "have been
vacated [by God]" and that he is being illegally detained. He believes
prison guards have tried to poison him and television evangelists are
sending messages to him.
Banks was sentenced to death according to jury instructions which have since
been declared unconstitutional. These instructions may have prevented the
jury from fully considering mitigating evidence for Banks, including
evidence of mental illness. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision
last June that a 1988 decision on jury instruction could not be applied
retroactively to Bank's case.
In addition, the five-person Pennsylvania Board of Pardons which could grant
clemency to Banks, is required to include a psychologist or a psychiatrist.
However, that seat is currently vacant raising concerns about the current
Please take a moment to write Gov. Rendell expressing your grave concerns
based on these issues.
Dec. 3, 2004
Take Action at:
The state of North Carolina is set to execute Charles Walker, 39, for the
1992 murder of Tito Davidson in Guilford County.
Walker, a black man, was convicted solely on the testimony of co-defendants
who were subsequently let off on lesser charges or lesser punishments. No
physical evidence tied Walker to the crime.
On Aug. 12, Walker and Pamela Haizlip, along with several others, were in
the apartment of Nicki Summers. Summers informed Walker that Davidson
attempted to rob Haizlip's apartment the previous night, looking for several
thousand dollars and drugs. Upon hearing this, Walker instructed Haizlip to
lure Davidson to her apartment. Walker, along with Jesse Thompson and
Rahshar Darden, followed to Haizlip's apartment where Davidson was waiting.
The prosecution alleged that when Walker, Darden, and Thompson went to
Haizlip's apartment, they tied up and beat Davidson with various weapons.
Walker left the apartment and returned to Summers' residence, leaving
Thompson and Darden who cut Davidson's throat and shot him. Darden also
returned to Summers' apartment to inform Walker that Davidson was still
alive. According to Darden, Walker reentered Haizlip's apartment and shot
Davidson in the neck. Shortly thereafter, Davidson died.
The state's case against Walker rested solely on the cooperative testimony
of Walker's co-defendants. Several people were arrested in connection with
the murder of Tito Davidson, including Walker, Haizlip, Thompson, Darden,
and Antonio Wrenn, who allegedly helped to dispose of the victim's body.
While in jail and immediately after their arrests, Haizlip wrote several
letters to Walker, admitting to him that she knew that he "didn't do
nothing" and that she was "lying left to right" when she told police that
Walker murdered Davidson. She further confessed that she thought that
Walker was seeing another woman, making her jealous and angry with him when
police questioned her. She also stated that she lied out of fear because
Jay Thompson was "threatening" her.
The jury found that Walker was guilty of both murder and conspiracy to
commit murder in the first degree. Notably, the jury did not find him
guilty of administering the fatal shot to Davidson. This may be attributed
to the fact that North Carolina had zero physical evidence against Walker,
Davidson's body was never found, and all the witnesses who testified against
Walker were accomplices to the murder. Pamela Haizlip was never prosecuted
for her involvement in the crime; she received a deal and was released after
testifying for the state. Antonio Wrenn was convicted as an accomplice to
murder in the second degree and was placed on probation. Rahshar Darden
served six years for murder in the second degree, and Jesse Thompson is
currently serving a life sentence. The question remains as to why
Walker's jury saw fit to sentence him to death while his co-defendants
received such a range of sentences.
Walker's life leading up to his conviction is regrettably similar to that of
many people on death row. Born in New York to a drug-addicted mother,
Walker was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic after referral for
psychiatric treatment as a child. His mother abused him terribly, using
electric cords and belts to whip and beat the young child. She also left
him on the streets to survive independently as young as age 12 without
medical treatment or adult guidance until his current incarceration.
Although North Carolina has no real evidence against Walker, the state
appears determined to follow through with his execution. Davidson's body
was never found and there is zero physical evidence implicating Walker as
the killer. The state has no ballistics evidence, DNA evidence, hair
fibers, fingerprints, or gunshot residue evidence. It has only the very
questionable statements of Walker's fellow defendants. In fact, Walker
turned down a plea bargain offer for second-degree murder, maintaining his
innocence and firing his attorney in the process. The case against Walker
is weak. He suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and a lifetime of abuse and
neglect. Often those persons suffering from mental illness are unable to
empower their attorneys to provide adequate counsel.
Please write to Gov. Mike Easley and request clemency for Charles Walker.
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