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In October 1988, a jury convicted Newton of capital murder, for killing more than one person in the same offense, and sentenced her to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence in June 1992. All of her subsequent appeals in state and federal court were denied.
Newton maintained her innocence in a death-row interview. "I was so scared and confused. Not only was my family dead, but then they're charging me with murder," she said. She and her appeals lawyers claimed that she received ineffective assistance from her court-appointed trial lawyer, Ron Mock.
In a recent interview, Mock admitted that he was "burned out" at the time of Newton's trial and was not enthusiastic about her case. He said that the case was an uphill battle from the beginning. "I had nothing, really, to work with other than Frances' saying that she did not do it." Mock has been barred from accepting court-appointed capital murder cases since 2001.
Newton also said that the nitrate residue on her skirt was from fertilizer. In December 2004, on a previously scheduled execution date, Governor Rick Perry accepted the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles' recommendation to grant Newton a 120-day stay of execution so that the skirt and the .25-caliber pistol could be tested again. The skirt, however, had been contaminated after the original test. Retesting on the pistol confirmed that it was the murder weapon.
In their most recent appeals, Newton's attorneys claimed that investigators actually seized two or more guns as evidence and that one of them - not the one in the blue bag hidden by Newton - was the murder weapon. A week before her execution, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected the multiple-gun theory as previously weighed and rejected. The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take the case. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles declined to grant a reprieve.
"I know I did not murder my kids and my family," Newton told a reporter in an interview. "It's frustrating ... nobody's had to answer for that."
At her execution, when the warden asked if she had a final statement, Newton answered, "No" and shook her head. The lethal injection was then administered. She was pronounced dead at 6:17 p.m.
By David Carson. Posted on 15 September 2005.
Sources: Texas Attorney General's office, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Associated Press, Galveston County Daily News, court documents.