Frances Newton, convicted of killing her husband and two children to gain $100,000 in insurance benefits, was executed yesterday in Texas. The Houston Chronicle reports that after weeks of legal wrangling, the execution went ahead after the U.S. Supreme Court and Gov. Rick Perry refused to intervene. She was the 349th killer put to death in Texas since 1982, and the first black woman executed in Texas since the Civil War.
Protesters outside the prison she was “murdered” or “lynched” because she was poor and black. Newton, 40, contending her family was killed by drug dealers to whom her husband owed money. Adrian Newton, she has said, used and sold drugs, and often was in fear of his suppliers. Defense attorneys crafted appeals based on claims that two, possibly three, pistols were seized as evidence, calling into question assertions that a gun Newton admitted hiding had been the murder weapon. Prosecutor Roe Wilson insisted that only one pistol had been recovered, and recanted as a slip of the tongue a videotaped statement in which she confirmed a second gun’s existence.