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News :: Human Rights
‘Stop the execution of Frances Newton!’
18 Aug 2005
Modified: 08:55:29 PM
As Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney steps up his campaign to reinstate the death penalty, the case of Frances Newton, who is scheduled to be executed in Texas Sept. 6, once again shows that the death penalty is systemically racist and used almost exclusively against the poor whether they're innocent or not. Stop the execution of Frances Newton!
free-frances-newton.jpg
‘Stop the execution of Frances Newton!’

By Gloria Rubac

HOUSTON -- The mobilization to stop the execution of Frances Newton is in high gear and growing by the day. Her execution is set for 6 p.m. on Sept. 14.

Frances Newton would be the first African American woman executed in the state of Texas in over 100 years. Although Texas leads the country with 346 of the 979 executions since 1976, Texas has executed only two other women: Karla Faye Tucker and Betty Lou Beets.

Houston is Newton’s hometown. Her family still lives in the Acres Home neighborhood where she grew up. All over the city people are organizing. They are signing postcards to the governor to stop the execution.

DVDs of Frances Newton speaking are being shown at churches and mosques and on university campuses. E-mail appeals are going out around the world. Houston’s Pacifica radio station is putting out urgent appeals for Newton’s life as public service announcements and as part of their programs.

Newton’s supporters will gather in Austin, the state capital, on Aug. 27, for a march to demand the execution be stopped. Demonstrators will march to the governor’s mansion and encircle it with yellow crime scene tape. The committee will put Gov. Rick Perry on notice that if he allows the execution to proceed, he will indeed be guilty of a crime: killing an innocent person.

On Labor Day weekend, the Committee to Free Frances Newton will do outreach and visibility at a Houston festival that celebrates, promotes and preserves the history and culture of the African American Sunnyside community. Organizers expect more than 20,000 to attend.

On Sept. 7, the Committee to Free Frances Newton and the Campaign to End the Death Penalty will co-sponsor a forum at the University of Texas in Austin on women and the death penalty. Newton’s mother, Jewel Nelms, will be the featured speaker.

Let the facts be heard!

The Houston district attorney says Newton murdered her husband and two children in 1987 for insurance money. The Texas Innocence Network, whose attorneys representing her, say that she is innocent, and that there is no physical evidence, no motive and no time when she could have killed her family.

Her current appeal also stresses that she would not be on death row today if not for her court-appointed, totally incompetent attorney, Ron Mock. Mock’s representation of Shaka Sankofa in his 1981 trial is one reason Sankofa was executed by Texas and then-Gov. George W. Bush in 2000.

The facts have never been presented before a court of law.

The evidence showed that Newton’s husband was shot at point-blank range in his temple. His blood and brains spewed out onto the killer, who left drops of blood on the carpet into the children’s room where they were shot.

Yet Frances Newton had no blood on her body, her clothing, her car or on anything she possessed. The police admit there was no cleanup done in the apartment. They also admit that they tested Newton’s hands shortly after the murders and that the test showed she had not fired a gun.

The police say there were nitrites from gunpowder at the bottom of the long skirt she was wearing. Yet no traces were found on her hands, sleeves or sweater. That means she would have had to bend over and shoot from ankle height. The test used to determine the presence of nitrites did not determine whether they were from gunpowder. Nitrites can also come from fertilizer. On the day of the murders, Newton had picked up her daughter at her uncle’s house where they had been working in the garden.

Earlier this year, when the current attorneys requested that the court allow testing of the skirt to find the source of the nitrites, the request was denied because the state’s previous test had destroyed the nitrite evidence. Also, the now-discredited Houston Police Crime Lab stored her skirt with her murdered family’s clothing, thus cross-contaminating all the evidence.

How you can help

Frances Newton recently told a Dutch journalist: “It’s been very difficult, but knowing that I am innocent, it gives me hope and it gives me courage to fight and believe that the truth will come out. I’ve been discouraged by the court system and the low standard they hold attorneys to. So to say that I have hope in the court system itself, no I can’t say that.”

Organizer Njeri Shakur says: “We agree with Frances that the court system does not deserve our faith. But what the committee has faith in is the power to make changes through struggle and unity. As Shaka Sankofa, executed in Texas on June 22, 2000, said: ‘The odds and the dangers we face in the struggle are great. But even greater is the power of the people.’”

Support letters can be sent to: Frances Newton, #922, Mountain View Unit, 2305 Ransom Road, Gatesville, TX 76528. Check out the website www.freefrances.org to order DVDs of Frances Newton speaking, and to send postcards or e-mail the Texas governor from this site.

You can also contact Gov. Rick Perry at Office of the Governor, PO Box 12428, Austin, TX 78711-2428, Phone: (512) 463-2000, Fax: (512) 463-1849.

-- 30 --
See also:
http://www.freefrances.org
http://houston.kpft.org

This work is in the public domain