death penalty news—-TEXAS

April 1


Court upholds conviction for Dallas death row inmate

A federal appeals court has upheld the conviction of a Texas death row
inmate condemned for abducting a Dallas man from a car wash, forcing him
to make an ATM withdrawal from a bank and then fatally shooting him.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the appeal from Roderick
Newton, 30, convicted of the March 1999 slaying of Jesus Montoya, 20.
Montoya was shot twice and left dead in a field in Mesquite, east of

At the time of the killing, Newton was wanted by authorities in Dallas for
violating probation from an earlier misdemeanor theft conviction.

He does not have an execution date. All executions in Texas and other
states are on an informal hold until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a
Kentucky case that is challenging the constitutionality of lethal
injection as the method of execution.

A second man charged in Montoya's case, Julian Paul Williams, testified
against Newton and accepted a 10-year prison term.

In his appeal, Newton raised 5 issues, including a challenge to the
rejection of a potential juror and accusing the prosecutor of improperly
questioning Newton's right not to testify. He also questioned the trial
court judge's answer to a jury question during punishment, questioned the
judge's handling of mitigating evidence, and said his trial lawyer was
ineffective by failing to present evidence that could have spared him the
death penalty.

Newton's lawyers acknowledged some of his claims had not been exhausted in
the state courts but blamed that on a poor lawyer initially handling the

The New Orleans-based appeals court released its decision late Monday.

At his trial 8 years ago, prosecutors presented evidence that Newton, a
native of Hartford, Conn., had 27 misdemeanors and felony offenses over a
7-year juvenile and adult criminal record.

Montoya was shot after being forced to withdraw $200 from an ATM. Evidence
showed Newton also took Montoya's shoes and necklace, then pawned the
jewelry the next day.

Newton was arrested about 2 weeks later after Williams was picked up
during a traffic stop and cooperated with police. Newton was arrested
after a police chase that ended with him crashing into a car, then running
from the scene on foot. He was found a few minutes later hiding in a trash

(source: Associated Press)