Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Frances Newton is scheduled to be executed tomorrow, and there is a good chance she is innocent. Newton has been on Texas's death row since 1988, and has maintained her innocence all these years in the murders of her husband and two children .

Her current lawyers, who have only recently taken the case, are appealing for a 120-day reprieve of execution in order to be able to properly investigate her claim, an investigation they say has not been carried out to date because of the inadequacy of her prior legal representation. (Her trial lawyer in '88 has since been barred by the state from representing defendants in cases where the death penalty may be applied.)

The petition for a 120-day reprieve argues that the testimony of the state's trial witnesses, taken together, suggests that either Frances Newton was not in the apartment at the time of the shooting, or that if she was she would have had, at most, 20 minutes to shoot her husband and children, clean herself up, compose herself, and leave the apartment to go to her cousin's home. There was no blood found on Frances Newton's clothing, hands, or car, despite the fact that the victims had been shot at close range. No gunpowder residue was found on her hands or sweater.
There was also no evidence that someone had undertaken a cleanup at the apartment.

Frances Newton was prosecuted in Harris County, where the city of Houston is located. In March 2003, an independent audit of the Houston Police Department (HPD) crime laboratory revealed serious defects in the lab's DNA analysis section, including poorly trained staff relying on outdated scientific techniques. Several cases suggest that the lab's problems extended beyond its DNA section, for example into its ballistics expertise.

The ballistics evidence central to the Newton case was processed at the HPD. On 21 October 2004, a judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said that there should be ''a moratorium on all executions in cases where convictions were based on evidence from the HPD crime lab until the reliability of the evidence has been verified''.

For information about the petition to the governor to allow the reprieve, go here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

A cross burning in Lake Grove,Long Island, in 2004.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

from Diana Moon's Letter from Gotham:

"The fact that many chickens will come to roost gives me no solace whatsoever.

But they will.

I just hope I don't have to pay the bill, but...I will. George Bush is a business school graduate, and they learn something very important there: pay for your schemes with other people's money."
ok, so Salon's Farhad Manjoo effectively debunks my suggestions regarding Diebolded results from Ohio and Florida in "The paperless machines were (probably) not rigged", here. I'm still suspicious of some kind of funny business going on.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Dick Morris was on Bill O'Reilly's show tonight, talking about the exit polls-- you know, the ones that predicted in the early evening that Kerry was ahead in several of the swing states, including Florida and Ohio. In what seemed like something of a rehearsed scene, O'Reilly raised several objections and possibilities regarding why the exit polls might've been wrong, and each time Morris knocked them down, insisting that exit polls are very reliable by their nature. So finally Morris got to the pitch after the windup, and said that he felt that the exit polls must've been "juiced", i.e. falsified, by the democrats to discourage republicans from going to the polls. Time and again I have this queasy sensation with a certain wing of the republican party( the main one) that when they're planting a lie in your mind they do it by accusing their opponent of precisely what they're doing, only I don't think it's unconscious projection with someone like Morris, but rather something deliberate. In fact, I've been surprised by how well-behaved (what I've seen of) the lefty blogosphere has been in being too seemly to suggest that the results in Florida and Ohio were being accurately predicted by the exit pollers, and in fact massaged after the fact by little brother and Diebold. And when you knock exit polls as a democratic party plot you set up many sequels.