14 September 2005

Frances Newton

Frances Newton will be executed in Texas in a couple of hours. The Supreme Court and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles have given the go ahead for her to be executed, so it seems unlikely that she will avoid the death penalty.

Her case is typical. She's black. Her lawyer was incompetent and has since been sanctioned by the State of Texas. Loose ends were not properly investigated or pursued. It is certainly hard to have confidence that she is really guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in this case.

The Austin-Stateman Herald summed up her case this way:

Newton was denied a basic requirement for a fair trial — a competent lawyer. Her attorney at trial was the notorious Ron Mock, whose shoddy work in capital murder trials is well known in legal circles. He has been repeatedly disciplined by the State Bar of Texas, and has since been disqualified from handling capital cases. No less than 16 people whom Mock represented were sent to death row. Mock apparently did no investigation of Newton's claims of innocence. When asked by a trial judge, he could not name a single witness he had interviewed on Newton's behalf. . . .

She is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday despite plenty of doubt her new lawyers have raised regarding the triple murder for which she was convicted. Tom and Virginia Louis, the parents of the man Newton was convicted of killing, have their doubts.

"We are the parents of Adrian Newton and the grandparents of Alton and Farrah Newton . . . We were willing to testify on Frances' behalf, but Frances' defense lawyer never approached us," they said in a letter to the Board of Pardons and Parole asking for leniency. . . .

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refuses to hear any new evidence or facts in Newton's case — and many others like it — because those facts were raised after court deadlines expired.

Even Saudi Arabia listens to pleas from the closest living kin of the deceased. But, Texas doesn't care. The Texas criminal justice system is a disgrace to the United States that has produced a long string of questionable criminal cases. But, the people of Texas don't seem to care, and the U.S. Supreme Court has intervened only intermittently. Frances Newton is paying the ultimate price for that indifference.

The rule in death penalty cases should be: Fiat Iustitia Et Ruant Coeli ("Let Justice Be Done, Though The Heavens May Fall"). Instead, it is "deadlines are more important than a human life."


Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Frances Newton has been executed by the State of Texas.

Kyle said...

That's disturbing. I'm very much in favor of a uniformly ministered death penalty.

Which I suppose means I'm very much against the death penalty in our current justice system.