death penalty news——TEXAS

July 21


Texas inmate likely to get reprieve from execution

A convicted murderer facing execution this week for an abduction and
slaying a decade ago likely will get a reprieve after Dallas County
prosecutors turned over misplaced evidence to defense attorneys.

Attorneys for Texas death row inmate Roderick Newton said the 1st of 3
statements given to detectives by a co-defendant who testified against
Newton was improperly withheld from his trial lawyers. It could have been
used to discredit the codefendant's testimony but defense attorneys didn't
know it existed.

The claim was among several appeals issues Newton's attorneys filed with
the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, asking it to block the lethal
injection set for Thursday in Huntsville.

Newton, 31, was convicted in the death of Jesus Montoya, 20, of Dallas,
who was abducted from a car wash, forced to make an ATM withdrawal, robbed
of his jewelry and then fatally shot and dumped in a vacant lot in

Police arrested Julian Paul Williams, whose fingerprints were found in
Montoya's truck, and Williams told them of Newton's involvement in
Montoya's slaying. Williams served a 10-year prison term and is now free.
Newton got death.

Dallas County prosecutors found a written questionnaire from Williams 1
of 3 statements he gave police in Mesquite in a police file while
reviewing the 10-year-old case within the past couple of weeks.

At Newton's trial, his attorneys were aware of only 2 statements.

In the newly discovered questionnaire, Williams told police he knew
nothing of the slaying and wasn't involved, denials trial attorneys could
have used to cast doubts on his later testimony.

The district attorney's office gave the statement to Newton's appeals
lawyers, who in their appeals court filing credited prosecutors for
"remarkable candor" in making the disclosure.

A ruling from the court will make the reprieve formal. Kimberly Schaefer,
an assistant district attorney who handles capital case appeals in Dallas
County, said it was nearly certain the execution would not take place.

"I've told the victim's family I'm 99.99 % sure the execution is not going
forward," she said.

One of Newton's lawyers, David Finn, said he expects the execution to be
postponed indefinitely.

Newton's lawyers also had raised claims he was mentally impaired, making
him ineligible for execution, a hearing should have been held on Newton's
competency to stand trial and he had deficient legal help at his trial.

Prosecutors opposed those claims but agreed to litigate the issue
involving the codefendant's recently discovered statement. One possible
outcome could be a new trial.

Newton had more than 2 dozen misdemeanor and felony offenses on his record
and was a probation violator wanted for Montoya's slaying when he tried to
elude police during an evening rush-hour chase in March 1999. After
slamming into a parked car and running off on foot, he was found a few
minutes later hiding in a garbage bin.

Police who arrested him had to use pepper spray to get Newton out of the
trash container.

(source: Associated Press)


Plano killer of Brazilian couple loses appeal

A Texas man condemned for the slaying of a Brazilian man 9 years ago in
suburban Dallas has lost a federal court appeal of his conviction and
death sentence, moving him a step closer to execution.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling late Monday rejected the
appeal from 31-year-old Michael Sigala. Sigala is sentenced to die for the
fatal shooting of 28-year-old Kleber Santos. Santos and his 25-year-old
wife, Lilian, were gunned down at their apartment in Plano in August 2000.
The woman also was raped and the couple's wedding rings were stolen and
subsequently pawned.

Sigala told police the shootings were in self-defense. He does not have an
execution date.

(source for both: Associated Press)