[Death Penalty Signs] Execution scheduled for Wed. 9/14
r-woodward at tcadp-bv.org
Mon Sep 12 21:22:28 CDT 2005
This Wednesday, 9/14, the State of Texas is scheduled to execute
Frances Newton. If you onw one of the "Execution Today" lawn signs,
please post it all day. There is a vigil scheduled in College
Station at Protest Park, the corner of Texas Ave. and Walton from
As discussed in the information from NCADP below, there were a lot of
problems with Ms. Newton's trial and she has a very strong innocense
claim. It would be particularly tragic if the state puts her to
death. Please take the action indicated below. There is hope that
she might win an appeal at a higher court, in which case the vigil
would be cancelled. I will try to notify people in the event of a
stay, but if you read the news first, pelase let me know.
Do not execute Frances Newton!
Sept. 14, 2005
The state of Texas is scheduled to execute Frances Newton on Sept.
14th 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 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
Furthermore, Newton has been denied effective representation at
nearly 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 have been executed and he is no longer assigned death penalty
cases because of his astonishingly abysmal record as an attorney.
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 conviction.
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 was given a prior death sentence in December of 2004, however,
Newton's clemency team took the unusual step of not asking the Board
of Pardons and Paroles to recommend clemency in Newton's case, but
rather recommended to Gov. Perry a 120-day reprieve so that more
investigation can be conducted. They claimed that the evidence in her
case was lacking and that her prior representation was shoddy. Gov.
Perry agreed to the 120-day reprieve on the day of her Dec. 1
execution date. However, little has changed regarding the facts of
the case and the state has set yet another execution date.
Please write Gov. Perry and the Board of Pardons and Paroles and ask
them to spare the life of Frances Newton.
Also, support letters to Frances Newton can be sent to:
Frances Newton, #922
Mountain View Unit
2305 Ransom Road
Gatesville, TX 76528
e-mail: r-woodward at TCADP-BV.org
More information about the Signs