Media Advisory: Roderick Newton scheduled for
Thursday, July 16, 2009
AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott
offers the following information about Roderick D. Newton, Jr. who
is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 23,
In 2000, Newton was convicted and sentenced to
death for the murder and robbery of Jesus Montoya. A summary of
the evidence presented at trial follows.
FACTS OF THE CRIME
On March 8, 1999, Roderick
Newton and Julian Williams went to a car wash in Pleasant Grove in
Dallas looking for someone to rob. Newton, who was armed, started
a conversation with Jesus Montoya who was washing his truck. After
a few minutes, Newton, Williams and Montoya left the car wash and
drove to a bank, where Newton forced Montoya to withdraw $200 from
Newton next drove Montoya’s truck to a vacant
field, where he told Montoya to take off his shoes, forced him out
of the truck, took his gold chain and cross, and shot Montoya
several times. Newton left Montoya in the field and drove his
truck back to the car wash, where he and Williams got back into
Newton’s car and drove away.
The next afternoon, Newton pawned Montoya’s
gold chain and cross.
On March 9, 1999, a neighbor noticed that
Montoya’s truck was still at the car wash. After discovering
Williams’s fingerprint on glass in the passenger’s side of
Montoya’s truck, Mesquite police arrested Williams who gave a
statement implicating Newton in Montoya’s murder. Mesquite police
then attempted to arrest Newton, who led them on a high speed car
chase before finally being arrested. In processing Newton’s car,
Mesquite police discovered a .35 caliber gun and two Texas ID
cards in the vehicle’s glove box.
Mar. 8, 1999 — A Dallas County
grand jury indicted Newton for the capital murder of Jesus
Feb. 25, 2000 — Judgment was
entered after a jury found Newton guilty of capital murder as
alleged in the indictment.
Mar. 1, 2000 — The jury
answered the punishment special issues affirmatively. The court
assessed a sentence of death.
Jan. 31, 2001 — Newton filed a
direct appeal with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
Dec. 10, 2001 — Newton filed
for state habeas relief in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
June 12, 2002 — Newton’s
conviction and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal by the
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
Jan. 15, 2003 — The Texas
Court of Criminal Appeals denied Newton’s application for state
Jan. 14, 2004 — Newton filed
his petition for writ of habeas corpus in a U.S. district court.
Mar. 28, 2007 — The federal
district court denied Newton’s federal habeas petition.
Apr. 15, 2007 — Newton filed a
motion for a certificate of appealability (“COA”) with the U.S.
Apr. 25, 2007 — The federal
district court denied Newton’s COA motion.
Nov. 27, 2007 — Newton
requested a COA in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Mar. 13, 2008 — Newton’s
request for COA was denied by the Fifth Circuit Court.
July 28, 2008 — Newton filed a
petition for a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Oct. 6, 2008 — Newton’s
petition for writ of certiorari was denied by the U.S. Supreme
Mar. 24, 2009 — The trial
court judge signed a death warrant, ordering Newton be executed
after 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 23, 2009.
PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY
In May, 1993, Newton threatened
to kill two officers after he was arrested for making terroristic
threats to an elderly person.
One of Newton’s neighbors testified that in
October 1993, someone stole several items from her car. While
Newton was never arrested for this crime, the neighbor testified
that she later recovered the items from Newton’s home.
In November 1993, when one of Newton’s teachers
confronted him for sleeping in class, Newton attacked him, forcing
the teacher to physically remove Newton from the classroom and
call police. Newton later telephoned the teacher and threatened to
In 1994, Newton was stopped for suspicious
behavior, but ran from the police. When finally caught, he falsely
In November 1996, an officer saw Newton and
another person working under the hood of a car. As the officer
approached them, they immediately started walking away from the
car. When the officer attempted to speak with Newton, he again ran
from the police. Newton was eventually convicted of evading arrest
for this incident.
In October 1997, when stopped for traffic
violations, Newton identified himself by another name, but stated
he did not have any form of identification. Newton was later
convicted of failing to identify himself as a fugitive from
In November 1997, Newton was convicted and
given a probated sentence for unlawfully carrying a weapon and
theft of services. His probation was later revoked because Newton
failed to comply with its terms.
In December 1997, Newton led police on a high-speed
chase in a stolen vehicle. Newton eventually ran from the car, but
was later arrested. Newton was convicted of evading arrest and
possession of marijuana.
In February 1998, Newton robbed two women. In
relation to this incident, Newton was found guilty of two counts
of theft of property from a person, and sentenced to five years
Newton’s probation officer testified that
Newton did not attend his first probation meeting because eight
days after being placed on probation, he was arrested again for a
burglary of a vehicle. Newton later lied to the officer about his
place of residence. At his second meeting with his probation
officer, Newton tested positive for marijuana. Newton failed to
make any more of his required probation meetings, and his
probation was consequently revoked.
Newton also caused problems while he was being
held in the Dallas County Jail for the capital murder of Jesus
Montoya. Specifically, Newton assaulted and threatened an officer.
Stay of execution granted for man
convicted in '99 Pleasant Grove murder
By Jennifer Emily - The Dallas
Thursday, July 23, 2009
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on
Wednesday granted a stay of execution for a man who was to die
today and ordered a lower court to determine whether he deserves a
new trial and whether he is mentally retarded.
Defense attorneys had argued that Roderick
Newton, who was found guilty of kidnapping and murdering 20-year-old
Jesus Montoya in a Pleasant Grove ATM robbery in 1999, did not get
a fair trial because police failed to hand over evidence that
would have questioned the credibility of a co-defendant who
testified against him.
The Dallas County district attorney's office
supported Newton's attorney's efforts to halt the execution after
agreeing that Mesquite police withheld a written statement that
contradicted the co-defendant's testimony.
District Attorney Craig Watkins said he
believes Newton is guilty and he will prosecute him again if a new
trial is granted.
"We've always thought he was guilty. We'll
pursue the same punishment," Watkins said. But he added, "The
process was less than perfect. ... We have the responsibility to
call a spade a spade."
David Finn, one of Newton's attorneys, and
prosecutor Mike Ware, who oversees the county's conviction
integrity unit, say they believe police never gave defense
attorneys or prosecutors copies of co-defendant Julian Williams'
first statement to police.
In that statement, Williams denied any
knowledge of the crime, according to a copy of the handwritten
statement. He also said he would not lie.
Williams later made two substantially different
statements and took the stand to testify that Newton shot Montoya
as the man begged for his life.
Williams pleaded guilty after he testified and
was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Finn also said Mesquite Police Officer Michael
Meek testified at trial that he took two statements from Williams
– not three.
"It was not an oversight" that the first
statement was never presented to the defense, he said. "It was not
an accident. It was not a mistake. The detective should thank his
lucky stars that the statute of limitations is only three years
for aggravated perjury."
Greg Davis, lead prosecutor during the original
trial and now the No. 2 prosecutor in Collin County, said
Wednesday that "nothing was withheld from the defense."
He said that the defense attorneys reviewed the
police file at the Police Department before the trial. He added
that he was not present at that meeting.
"It was a premeditated and vicious killing, and
Newton has never expressed one word of remorse for his actions,"
"Besides the co-defendant's testimony, we had
[a] witness who identified Newton as the man who pawned Montoya's
crucifix necklace after the murder, Newton's prints on Montoya's
vehicle, Newton's attempt to escape at the time of his arrest and
a confession to a cellmate that the defense called to the stand.
The evidence of guilt was overwhelming against Newton."
Finn said trial attorneys viewed only physical
evidence at that meeting.
A Mesquite police spokesman, Lt. Bill Hedgpeth,
on Wednesday declined to discuss the case and referred questions
to prosecutors. He said that he has not spoken to Meek.
"My understanding is we made everything
available to defense attorneys," he added.
Finn credited the DA's office for its help in
securing the stay. Although Finn discovered the statement might
exist, prosecutors found the document at the Mesquite Police
"They could have just looked the other way,"
Finn said. "And they didn't. That speaks volumes about their
Withholding information that could benefit a
defendant is commonly called a "Brady violation."
Agreeing to a stay of execution is an unusual
move for a prosecutor, although Watkins has agreed to one before.
In September 2007, Watkins agreed to a stay of
execution for Joseph Roland Lave Jr. because a second polygraph
examination of a co-defendant was not given to the defense at
trial. Lave is on death row, and prosecutors say they believe he
The DA's office did not agree to Newton's stay
on the issue of mental retardation.
But in 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that
the mentally retarded cannot be executed. They can be tried for
capital crimes and sentenced to life in prison if they understand
the charges they face and can contribute to their defense.
Neither the Supreme Court, the Texas Court of
Criminal Appeals nor the state Legislature has laid out a
definitive method to determine if defendants are mentally retarded.
But in several cases, defendants with IQs below 70 have been
spared the death penalty.
Newton's IQ is 61, according to court records.
No date has been set for proceedings by the
original trial court to hold hearings about the Brady violation
and whether Newton is mentally retarded. After that hearing, the
appeals court would make a decision based on the lower court's