Frances Newton: Faith on Death Row

INTERVIEW
Frances Newton: Faith on Death Row
By Terry Meeuswen and Zsa Zsa Palagyi
The 700 Club


CBN.com – “I have to tell anyone who thinks just because they’ve become a new Christian that everything is going to go smoothly that it’s not.”

Frances Newton knows this from experience. She’s a Christian who’s been on death row since 1988.

The state of Texas convicted Frances for murdering her husband Adrian and children Alton and Farah. Allegedly, Frances killed her family so she could collect a $100,000 life insurance payment.

Frances says she didn’t commit the crime, and to this day, she maintains her innocence.

According to Frances, she had poor representation at her trial and at every stage of her appeal. She was scheduled to be executed on December 1, 2004. But two hours before her appointed death, she was granted a 120-day reprieve. That reprieve is over March 31st.

The inconclusive evidence, lack of proper representation, and questionable circumstances surrounding Frances’s conviction leave a lot of holes in her case. Despite all of her disappointments, Frances remains calm and even hopeful. All because she chooses to place her trust in Christ.

Terry Meeuwsen: Where were you at spiritually when you first came in 17 years ago?

Frances Newton: I had accepted the Lord into my life probably six months prior to all of this, and I had been in church all my life. But I was just in church. You need a relationship with Jesus, and I had never heard that before. So when my mom told me about that, I said, "Okay, let me try this." And so I did.

Terry: When you came into this setting, you had a lot of alone time in a way that you probably didn’t have when you were on the outside. How did God provide for you here?

Frances: When I got here, there was already an established chaplaincy program going on that was alive. I came into an environment that was already grounded spiritually, so that helped me a lot.

Terry: I know from the very beginning that you have always declared your innocence. How have you kept your heart from being bitter? Seventeen years is a long time.

Frances: Yes, but I’ve prayed that I wouldn’t become bitter, that I wouldn’t remain angry, that I would just give all of it to God and let Him handle it. There have been moments where I felt myself going that way, and I have people around me who will help me... The Holy Spirit reminds me too.

Terry: When you’re alone, how do you occupy your thoughts positively?

Frances: I put the Word of God in my heart, and I’ll sing songs. I’ll quote Scripture. I’ll remember stories of the Bible, and I’ll try to think of those things. I just finished reading Joseph, a man of integrity and forgiveness by Chuck Swindoll. I was so moved by his story, because here he was, had been sold in slavery, put in prison, yet he had no bitterness in him. When I can read that, I pray, "Lord, help me not to have bitterness."

Terry: That’s my favorite Bible story, Joseph. I often wonder if Joseph recognized it when it was happening to him, but God was changing his character. You certainly have been in an intense place of God working in your heart and in your life. How do you think God’s changed your character?

Frances: I think He’s made me stronger. I come from a huge family. I am used to taking orders and being told what to do and not having an opinion, but I think that what I’ve gone through made me really sensitive to other people. I hope that I’m able to help people when they’re going through things, even if it’s just to listen.

Terry: How do you keep from getting caught up in looking back on what might have been or in how things could have been handled differently or changed in this situation?

Frances: Again, it’s been through the grace of God that I’ve done it, but also knowing that nothing that I could have done or couldn’t have done could have changed the situation.

Terry: In a situation where you feel like you’re battling for your life, have you ever had a chance to grieve for your family?

Frances: I don’t know if that process is ever complete. My son would be 25 this year.

Terry: That’s hard to believe, isn’t it?

Frances: Yes, it is.

Terry: And how old was he when he died?

Frances: Seven years old.

Terry: I know that there are a lot of people who have prayed and walked through this with you and a lot of people who are still praying for you. You came within a couple of hours of execution. How did you prepare yourself for that? That’s a place of total surrender, Frances.

Frances: It is, and I thought, Lord, if it is today, I’m going to be glad to be with You. As Christians, that’s our goal. We talk about heaven, and we sing about heaven. Now I might be going to heaven right now. It’s like our faith. Is our faith going to stay strong just when things are going okay, but when we have struggles and things are bad… what about our faith then? If our faith is strong and our faith is what we say it is, it’s going to be strong even in the bad times. It may weaken a little, and I have been weak at times, but it’s there and because God is in it, He makes Himself strong. He keeps us strong.

Terry: Have you ever had days where it’s been hard for you to grab hold of that truth that God has not forgotten?

Frances: There have been days where I’ve often wondered, When are You going to show up? But, no, I’ve never felt like He’s forgotten me.

Terry: What was it like for you when you were getting ready to take that last walk into the room where you would be executed and the warden came and said, "There’s been a stay." Was it almost hard to grasp that?

Frances: It wasn’t. I had such a peace, and it wasn’t me. It was God in me. In fact, I thought it was going to go until 6 o’clock.

Terry: Really? Wow. There might be someone who’s watching right now whose life might be in a mess, whether it’s of their own making or just life circumstances. It happens. And they’re just having a hard time hanging on. What would you say to them?

Frances: Immerse yourself in the Word of God and what He has to say and get your eyes and your emotions, as hard as that might be, get them off the situation and turn to Him.

Terry: When asked what His name was, God gave the term, “I Am”… tell them that I Am because He is everything that we need. What attributes of God have meant the most to you while you’ve been in here?

Frances: His constancy. He is so consistent. That has meant the most to me because in the environment, so much changes all the time. If you allow yourself to get bothered by the change, then you’re not stable. But God is so stable, and if you keep yourself in Him, that stability is going to come off on you, too.

Terry: How do you want people to pray for you?

Frances: Pray that I would keep my focus on the Lord, no matter what.

Update:
A Web site petition has begun to save Frances. If you want more information, visit the 'Free Frances' site.