HOUSTON (CBS/KWTX/AP) The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Wednesday threw out the conviction of Roderick Newton, who was sent to death row for the abduction, robbery and shooting death of a Dallas man more than 11 years ago.
The state's highest criminal court agreed with a Dallas judge who previously found prosecutors improperly withheld evidence during Newton's trial in 2000 that could have vindicated him.
Newton, who's 32, was sent to death row for the 1999 death of 20-year-old Jesus Montoya of Dallas, whose body was found in a vacant lot in Mesquite.
Newton was scheduled to die last year, but the execution was stopped after Dallas County authorities gave Newton's lawyers a police questionnaire uncovered in a review of the case, which had been filled out by a key prosecution witness but never given to Newton's trial attorneys.
Newton's lawyers argued the questionnaire - the first of three statements made to detectives by a co-defendant who testified against Newton - was improperly withheld and could have been used to discredit the co-defendant's testimony.
In the questionnaire, Julian Paul Williams told police he knew nothing of the slaying and wasn't involved. He changed his story in subsequent statements.
Williams' fingerprints were found in Montoya's truck. He served a 10-year prison term and was released. Newton got a death sentence. Evidence showed that a day after the slaying, he pawned jewelry belonging to the murder victim.
Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins said Wednesday that rather than retrying the case, his office and Newton's lawyers reached a plea agreement where Newton gets off death row in exchange for two stacked life sentences.
"He's not getting out," Watkins said.
Newton, a native of Hartford, Conn., had more than two dozen misdemeanor and felony offenses on his record. He was a probation violator when he became wanted for Montoya's slaying.