Texas parole board rejects plea for death row woman

A condemned woman inmate lost before the Texas parole board and a federal court as her lawyers tried to stop her scheduled execution.

A condemned woman inmate lost before the Texas parole board and a federal court as her lawyers tried to stop her scheduled execution.

Frances Newton, 40, faces lethal injection tomorrow evening for the murders of her husband and two children at their Houston apartment 18 years ago.

Newton would be the first black woman executed in Texas – the nation’s most active death penalty state – since executions resumed there in 1982.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, in a 7-0 vote yesterday, refused to recommend to the governor that her death sentence be commuted to life in prison.

“Newton’s claims of innocence were not substantiated,” the board said in a statement released by presiding officer Rissie Owens

The vote came several hours after the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals refused to stop the punishment, a decision that sent her lawyers to the US Supreme Court.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal court, already had rejected a similar appeal.

“I think the 5th Circuit and the parole board have been misled by something the state keeps saying, proving that if you say something over and over again, even if it’s not true, people will believe it,” said David Dow, Newton’s lawyer.

Dow took her appeal to the US Supreme Court.

Newton has denied any role in the April 7, 1987, killings of her husband, Adrian, and their children, Alton, seven, and Farrah, 21 months. She says a drug dealer she knew only as Charlie may have been responsible.

Prosecutors say Newton killed her husband and children to claim $100,000 (€81,000) in insurance money.

Last winter, Newton came within two hours of execution before Gov. Rick Perry gave her a 120-day reprieve to allow more evidence testing on the .25-calibre pistol prosecutors said was used to fatally shoot the victims.

In March, the new ballistics tests confirmed the earlier findings. Harris County then rescheduled her execution for tomorrow.

Newton would be the 13th prisoner executed this year in Texas, and only the third woman executed in the state since 1982.

In all, 10 women have been executed in the United States since the death penalty resumed in 1976.

On Friday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected an appeal that claimed Newton was innocent, that evidence used at her trial was improperly destroyed, that a weapon linked to the murders was not the only weapon recovered by police and that she has not been a problem inmate, disputing trial evidence that she was a continuing danger and deserved to die.

At the heart of the arguments are defence contentions that a second gun was recovered after the fatal shootings of Newton’s husband and their children.

Prosecutors insist no such weapon exists.

Newton acknowledges hiding a .25-calibre handgun in a bag and taking it to an abandoned house where it was recovered by police, but Dow says it’s not the same weapon Newton left there.

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