Frances Newton, convicted of killing her husband and two children 18 years ago, was executed Wednesday becoming the third woman, and first black woman, to be put to death in the state since executions resumed in 1982.
Strapped to the death chamber gurney and with her parents among the people watching, she declined to make a final statement, quietly saying "no" and shaking her head when the warden asked if she would like to speak.
Newton briefly turned her head to look at her family as the drugs began flowing. She appeared to try to mouth something to her relatives, but the drugs took effect. She coughed once and gasped as her eyes closed. She was pronounced dead eight minutes later.
One of her sisters stood against a wall at the rear of the death house, her head buried in her arms. Her parents held hands and her mother brushed away a tear before they walked to the back of the chamber to console their other daughter, reports the Washington Post.
According to Boston Globe, about 50 demonstrators chanted outside, but the crowd paled in comparison to the hundreds who gathered in 1998 to protest the execution of Karla Faye Tucker, the first woman executed in Texas since the Civil War.
"She's back with her family, in her mind," said John LaGrappe, one of her lawyers, who met with Newton less than two hours before she was executed and described her as "strong and optimistic. . . . It's her faith in God."
He characterized her as the victim of laws that denied her access to the Supreme Court, and blamed state-appointed lawyers early in her appeals process for missing deadlines that barred Newton from raising legal claims.
"It's a sad statement about the judicial process," he said.
Two cousins of Newton's slain husband who also watched the execution contended that too much attention had been focused on the convicted killer, and not enough on her three victims.
"I wanted her to apologize, just to confess," Tamika Craft-Demming said. "Justice is not, to me, served." Craft-Demming sobbed in the death chamber.
"I'd like to say not one tear was for Frances," she said. "They were for the kids."