[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Sep 14 11:05:09 CDT 2005
Will Another Innocent Woman be Executed?----The Texas Killing Machine
Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, but it was the callousness,
disorganization and racism that resulted in countless lives being lost.
Now the state of Texas is set to take another casualty-Frances Newton.
Frances is set to be executed in Texas on September 14th. She, like many
of the victims in Louisiana, is a poor, Black woman who has been failed by
our government. So many of the victims in Louisiana could have gotten out
if they had money, if they had a car, if they had help and support.
One could say the same of Frances. If she had a decent trial attorney, she
most likely never would have been convicted, let alone sentenced to death.
If she had the money to have had a full investigation done prior to trial,
and if she wasn't left prey to the forensic lab that took a main piece of
evidence and contaminated it by sticking it in with a bunch of other
clothing, Frances would likely not be facing an execution date.
Like many of those left to die in Louisiana, Francis is one of the people
most vulnerable in our criminal justice system-she is Black and poor. As
Bryan Stevenson, an anti-death penalty attorney and outspoken capital
punishment opponent, puts it, "You're more likely to get the death penalty
if you're poor, black and innocent, than if you're rich, white and
Now, Frances' new attorney has unraveled the case and shown that Frances
is-by all accounts-innocent. So why is Governor Perry going forward with
the execution? Hasn't there been enough death already?
What's more, the reasons that compelled Perry to grant Frances a stay back
in December 2004 have only grown.
Frances Newton was accused of killing her husband and children for the
"insurance money" back in 1987. But Frances' new lawyer, David Dow, the
head of the Innocence Network at the University of Houston Law Center, has
discovered evidence that proves otherwise.
Frances believes her husband was killed by a drug dealer, who he owed
$1,500. Frances' brother thought this as well, and told police that he
could lead them to the drug dealer's home. But the police never
investigated that lead. And even though Frances passed a lie detector
test, even though she had no blood on her clothes or car (in what was a
very bloody crime), and no gunpowder residue was found on her hands, the
police arrested her. According to prosecutors, Frances was supposed to
have killed her family, cleaned up all of the evidence, and then returned
to the crime scene, all in 30 minutes.
The gross incompetence with which this case was handled is hard to read
about. Ron Mock, who was Frances' trial lawyer, did virtually no work on
the case. On the day of trial, Mock could not name one witness he had
interviewed. He called no witnesses. The parents of Frances' husband-a
victim in the crime-asked to be called to testify on behalf of Frances,
but they were never called.
According to a recent article in the Austin Chronicle, "Ron Mock has since
been brought before the state bar's disciplinary board at least 5 times on
various charges of professional misconduct, for which he has been fined
and sometimes suspended; he is currently suspended from practicing law
until late 2007."
Activists in Houston held a protest at Mock's house, and they plan to hold
more protests. In Austin, activists plan to surround the governor's
mansion in Texas with crime scene tape to indicate the real scene of the
crime if the state proceeds with this execution.
Our rescue and relief efforts were woefully inadequate in reaching out to
the suffering and dying in Louisiana. And we see our elected officials
having trouble admitting they did anything wrong.
Far too often, we see the same stubbornness within our criminal justice
Our constitution says that everyone has a right to effective council.
Frances never got this. After 19 years, we should be able to give Frances
the fair trial she is entitled to, but was denied.
Frances' mother Jewel Nelms said in a recent interview, "I would ask the
governor and Board of Pardons and Paroles to look at the facts in the case
and make a true and fair judgment. Like they would want someone to do if
it was their child. I'm thankful for the stay of execution in December,
and I'm confident that when they see the new evidence that they will also
realize that it really needs to go back to court."
That would be the right thing to do.
(source: Marlene Martin is national director of the Campaign to End the
Death Penalty; CounterPunch)
Last-ditch efforts to save inmate----Black leaders predict dire
consequences if Frances Newton is executed tonight
Local black leaders warned Tuesday of divine and political repercussions
if condemned killer Frances Newton is executed tonight in Huntsville.
The warnings came during an emotional morning news conference at the
Mickey Leland Federal Building downtown, during which U.S. Rep. Sheila
Jackson Lee called on authorities to grant Newton a new trial. Jackson
Lee, D-Houston, said she would also ask the nation's solicitor general to
intervene in the case.
"The American nation values life," she said, "and Frances Newton deserves
to have her life spared. ... It's not a handout that Newton should have
her day in court again."
Jackson Lee likened the last-minute effort to save Newton to Texans who
"through affection and love stood last at the Alamo" and declared that,
"we're standing for the life of Texas."
Newton, 40, is to be executed at 6 p.m. for the 1987 murders of her
husband, Adrian, 23, and the couple's 7-year-old son and 21-month-old
daughter to gain insurance benefits.
She would be the 3rd woman executed in Texas since executions were resumed
in 1982 and the 13th killer executed this year. She also would be the 1st
black woman put to death in Texas during that time.
Newton's chances to escape death by injection have narrowed to a
last-minute appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court and an appeal to Gov.
Rick Perry to grant a 30-day stay of execution. Last December, Perry
granted Newton an execution-day stay that provided 4 months to retest
evidence crucial to her case.
In the past week, petitions filed with the Texas Court of Criminal
Appeals, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the Texas Board of Pardons
and Paroles have been rejected.
Texas Innocence Network attorneys David Dow and Jared Tyler, both
University of Houston law professors, have centered their efforts to save
Newton's life on claims that multiple pistols were seized as evidence the
night of the killings.
Those weapons, they contend, could have been switched during ballistics
testing, thereby wrongly indicating that the gun Newton hid in a vacant
house after the shootings was the murder weapon. Newton has said she
removed the pistol from her apartment and hid it to keep her husband from
getting into a violent encounter with drug dealers.
Much of the evidence and testimony supporting their multiple-pistol
theory, defense attorneys say, was developed after Newton's initial trial.
Assistant District Attorney Roe Wilson denies that more than one weapon
was recovered. Tests on three occasions have identified the weapon Newton
hid as the murder weapon, Wilson said.
On Tuesday, Jackson Lee called upon Perry to grant a stay so that issues
related to the pistol and other matters can be sorted out. Last week, the
Court of Criminal Appeals declined to consider the defense team's gun
arguments, contending they already had been reviewed and discounted.
Nation of Islam Minister Robert Muhammad said Tuesday that he had
completed a week of fasting and prayer for "God to move hearts and minds
Muhammad repeated the charge that Newton's first trial attorney, Ron Mock,
provided inadequate counsel. Mock, whose career reached a recent low when
the State Bar of Texas suspended him, failed to interview witnesses or
perform other basic research in the case, appeals lawyers have claimed.
The Court of Criminal Appeals, however, has determined Newton received
"Mock," Muhammad said, "has his own wing on death row."
Noting that Houston and Texas had generated international goodwill by
welcoming tens of thousands of Hurricane Katrina evacuees, he added that
the state could "ruin that in one swoop" with Newton's execution.
He warned, too, of divine retribution for what he deemed an unjust
"I fear for the state for what God might do," he said. "If the hurricane
had traveled just 2 degrees west, it could have been here."
Divine repercussions aside, Ovide Duncantell, director of the Black
Heritage Society, predicted GOP overtures to blacks could fall flat if
Perry, a Republican, fails to act.
"There will be more damage to the Republican Party," he said.
SHAPE director Deloyd Parker urged Perry to exercise caution in going
ahead with Newton's execution.
"We believe she's innocent," he said. "But if you kill her tomorrow and
you find out later that she is innocent, there's nothing you can do to
"Think about that, governor. Think about it."
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Protesters expected for female execution
Officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice aren't expecting a
huge crowd or a hectic scene tonight for the execution of Frances Newton.
Hundreds of media members from all over the world, plus conflicting groups
like the Nation of Islam, Ku Klux Klan and New Black Panthers, have come
to Huntsville for high-profile executions in the past.
Except for a protest organized by the Texas Moratorium Network and more
media at the scene tonight, TDCJ officials say they're expecting nothing
out of the ordinary.
"We recognize that this is a higher-profile execution than other ones
we've had this year, and we do have a plan to up the security," explained
TDCJ spokeswoman Michelle Lyons-Burnett. "We're expecting more protesters
than usual and more media, but we don't know how much."
Before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast a little more than 2 weeks
ago, TDCJ officials were preparing for a large gathering of protesters and
Lyons-Burnett said it seems like Newton's case took a backseat to Katrina
recently with reporters focusing more of their energy on the hurricane and
its aftermath than the plight of a woman on death row for the 1987 fatal
shooting of her 7-year-old son, her 21-month-old daughter and her
23-year-old husband at their Houston apartment.
"We're not expecting any type of protest to the extent of the Gary Graham
and Karla Faye Tucker executions," Lyons-Burnett said. "We've heard rumors
that Jesse Jackson plans to be here, but those rumors have not been
Huntsville Police Chief Jean Sanders said she is willing to help with
security tonight, but she's not expecting any requests for assistance.
"We're not going to have any additional officers over at the Walls Unit.
The bike patrol will be in the area, but we have no reason to believe they
will need any additional security there," Sanders said Tuesday morning.
Newton will be housed at the Goree Unit today until she is transported to
the Huntsville "Walls" Unit, where the execution is scheduled to be
carried out at 6 p.m.
"She did not request a last meal," Lyons-Burnett said.
5 members of Newton's family - her mother, father, 2 sisters and a brother
- are on the witness list, as are 2 of her husband's cousins.
(source: Huntsville Item)
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (18th District, Texas)
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee Demands Reprieve from Execution for
Frances Newton set to be executed Wednesday; Congresswoman Jackson Lee
asks for reprieve based on evidence of multiple weapons found
Today, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee reiterated her request to State
judicial officials for a stay of execution in the case of Frances Newton,
whose execution is scheduled for Wednesday. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals on Monday refused to stop the execution and the Texas Board of
Pardons and Paroles voted 7-0 not to recommend that Governor Perry commute
the sentence to life in prison. Newton was convicted for the murder on
April 9, 1987 of her husband, Adrian Newton, 23, and their son, Alton, 7,
and daughter, Farah, 2 for purpose of collecting life insurance policy
proceeds for their deaths. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, member of the
House Judiciary Committee, has been working with the Texas Innocence
Network to get a favorable recommendation by the Board and expressed
disappointment in the Board's recommendation. "The case of the prosecution
was fraught with numerous and substantial discrepancies. Without
additional time to conduct further investigation, there is a chance that
an innocent woman will be executed," stated Congresswoman Jackson Lee.
"Considerable evidence exists to case doubt upon the guilt of Frances
Newton. First, ballistics evidence used in the trial was processed by the
Houston Police Department Crime Laboratory. We know from the vast accounts
of erroneous prosecutions like Josiah Sutton and failed scientific
analyses that its work is no longer credible or exclusively relied upon."
This morning, she discussed this decision and the impact that it, along
with new federal legislation, will have on future capital cases in Texas
in a press conference held at the Mickey Leland Federal Building [in
Houston]. Regarding the relevance of federal legislation to the Newton
case, Jackson Lee stated, "The provision that concerns Frances Newton the
most is Title IV, which establishes rules for post-conviction DNA testing
of Federal prison inmates and requires the preservation of biological
evidence in Federal criminal cases while the defendant remains
incarcerated. It provides incentive grants to States that adopt adequate
procedures for providing post-conviction DNA testing and preserving
Additionally, it authorizes funding to help States provide competent legal
services for both the prosecution and the defense in death penalty cases
and provides funds for post-conviction DNA testing."
The dollars that this legislation authorizes can be used to improve the
function of Texas crime labs. We must diminish the number of erroneous
prosecutions and executions, and we must have more accountability in the
enforcement of the law. Hopefully, a reprieve will be granted today that
will allow Frances Newton to prove her innocence so that the true
perpetrator can be brought to justice," concluded Congresswoman Jackson
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