Yesterday we found out that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted relief to our client Roderick Newton. Mr. Newton was convicted of shooting Jesus Montoya. Allegedly, he and his co-defendant Julian Williams, acted together when they robbed and killed Mr. Montoya. Julian Williams, in exchange for a plea agreement of ten years incarceration, testified that Mr. Newton was the shooter rather than himself.
Broden & Mickelsen and David Finn began representing Mr. Newton during the Federal habeas corpus process. Different lawyers represented Mr. Newton during trial; during his first, or direct appeal; and during the first State habeas process.
Limited to the issues raised in the State habeas process, the Federal habeas was denied. Afterwards, with the assistance of the able lawyers at the Texas Defender Services, and with an scheduled execution looming, we prepared a subsequent State habeas petition, bringing new claims to the State court. One of those new claims were that Mr. Newton was mentally retarded and thus ineligible to receive the death penalty, and the other was that the prosecutor’s office had failed to disclose favorable evidence to the trial lawyers during trial.
To their credit, the post-conviction litigation lawyers of the Dallas County District Attorney’s office discovered that some important evidence had not been turned over during trial. That evidence consisted of notes of an interview of Julian William that tended to implicate him as the shooter and were contradictory to the testimony that he gave at trial. This fact, and the fact that Mr. Williams had been given such a favorable plea bargain, troubled the lawyers at the District Attorney’s office. They agreed that Mr. Newton essentially should receive a sentence of life imprisonment without parole rather than the death penalty.
Working together, we and the District Attorney’s office fashioned a rather complicated plea bargain. The difficulty was that if Mr. Newton’s sentence was simply converted to a life sentence of imprisonment, pursuant to the laws applicable at the time of his offense, Mr. Newton would have been eligible for immediate parole. Although parole would have been unlikely, the District Attorney’s office wanted Mr. Newton to give up the possibility of parole in exchange for their agreement that he not receive the death penalty.
Although both the District Attorney’s office and our office, on behalf of Mr. Newton, reached a plea agreement, this did not mean the Court of Criminal Appeals was necessarily going to approve of the arrangement. After many months of waiting, yesterday, we, and Mr. Newton learned that he would no longer face execution.
Of course, our hearts go out to the family of Jesus Montoya, and we hope this development does not cause them new pain. As part of the agreement with the District Attorney’s office Roderick Newton agreed to apologize for involvement in Mr. Montoya’s death, and on behalf of Mr. Newton we extend that apology here.