ABA President Calls for Stay of Texas Woman's Execution
LETTER OF ABA PRESIDENT MICHAEL GRECO TO TEXAS GOVERNOR RICK PERRY AND THE PARDONS BOARD CONCERNING THE UPCOMING EXECUTION OF FRANCES NEWTON
August 31, 2005
BY FAX: 512/463-1849
The Honorable Rick Perry
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428
BY FAX: 512/463-8120
Chairwoman Rissie Owens
Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
Executive Clemency Unit
P.O. Box 13401
Austin, Texas 78711
Re: Francis Newton
Dear Governor Perry and Chairwoman Owens:
As President of the American Bar Association, I write to
express the concern of the ABA about the case of Francis
Newton, an African-American woman who is scheduled to be
executed on September 14, 2005. Our concern arises from
our understanding that arguably significant and compelling
new evidence regarding Ms. Newton's case has not yet been
evaluated by Texas courts. This new evidence includes forensic
evidence and evidence of a lack of motive, both of which are
made more serious by Ms. Newton's continuing and unwavering
claim of innocence.
We are also concerned that this evidence was not discovered
earlier because of the negligence of her appointed lawyer, Ron
Mock. Several months after Mr. Mock's appointment, Ms. Newton
wrote a letter to the trial judge expressing concern that no
investigation of her case was occurring. On the day of trial, Mr.
Mock could not name one witness he had interviewed. He did
no investigation whatsoever, and therefore, did not place before
the jury the evidence that now casts doubt on Ms. Newton's
involvement in this crime. Mr. Mock was later barred from
handling capital cases.
Longstanding ABA policy states the importance of providing
all criminal defendants with qualified, competent counsel and
protecting the innocent from wrongful execution. An abundance
of caution should be exercised whenever there is doubt. Last
December, you agreed to a 120 day delay of Ms. Newton's
execution because you were persuaded that such doubt existed.
Some testing was impossible because the evidence had been contaminated.
More testing has been requested and compelling
new evidence has been discovered since December.
We are not in a position to comment on the merits of the new
evidence. That is a role for officials in your state. But we believe that carrying out the execution of Francis Newton without a full
review of this new evidence is inconsistent with principles of
fundamental fairness and due process. Because reasonable
doubt exists, we urge you to vacate her execution date so that
the newly discovered evidence can be tested and properly
evaluated by Texas courts.
Thank you for your consideration.
Michael S. Greco
American Bar Association