Wednesday, April 3, 2013
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit described George Newman’s murder as follows:
In the early morning of September 17, 1990, after walking into the bathroom, Connie Hilton noticed an armed man walk past the doorway; immediately screamed to her sleeping fianc (the victim); and heard a gunshot.
After Hilton attempted to hide in the bathroom, a man aimed a gun at her, saying, Shut up , or I’ll shoot you, too. Hilton began struggling with that man; was struck in the head at least twice; finally submitted; and was lifted by two individuals, who told her to cover her eyes.
Hilton was led outside and later directed into the living room, where she was sexually assaulted by the man who found her in the bathroom. That man took Hilton into the kitchen, where he tied her hands and feet; she heard sounds indicating the house was being ransacked. Finally, Hilton felt a gun barrel placed between her legs, and the same man told her: Quit whimpering, . Somebody will find you in the morning.
Hilton testified that, because of the voice, she knew it was the man who remained with her from when she was discovered in the bathroom until when she was left in the kitchen.
During a search of the room where the sexual assault occurred, investigators collected pubic hairs that were consistent with samples taken from Lewis. Through DNA analysis, samples of Lewis’s blood were matched with traces of blood found both in the house and in the victim’s car (recovered the next morning) and also with semen recovered from the house and Hilton.
Under Texas law, the rules of evidence prevent certain prior criminal acts from being presented to a jury during the guilt-innocence phase of the trial. However, once a defendant is found guilty, jurors are presented information about the defendant’s prior criminal conduct during the second phase of the trial which is when they determine the defendant’s punishment.
During Lewis’s second sentencing, jurors learned that in January of 1986, Lewis was arrested and convicted after assaulting an 18-year-old girl who had thwarted his attempt to burglarize her family’s vehicles. That same year, Lewis became very combative with police after his arrest for the theft of a small refrigerator from a local hospital. The theft was never prosecuted. Lewis again violated the law in April of 1988 and received a 25-year prison sentence for burglary of a building.
By 1990, Lewis was released back onto the streets. In July 1990, Lewis stole a pick-up truck and, after a chase by police, crashed the truck into a tree. Lewis fled from the accident scene but was captured a short time later. Two months later, on September 13, 1990, Lewis used a sawed-off shotgun and expressed a willingness to kill in order to carry out the robbery of a Tyler retail store. He left with some of the store’s cash and, as a hostage, the store’s elderly manager. Once outside, Lewis directed his hostage to the side of a nearby building and, while in relative seclusion, told her to turn her back to him as he raised the gun. Just as the manager believed she was about to be shot, a car drove past, and Lewis, at that moment, fled into a nearby field. He was identified as the perpetrator of this aggravated robbery and aggravated kidnaping shortly after his arrest for capital murder.
In January 1991, a Smith County grand jury indicted Lewis for the offense of capital murder.
On April 26, 1994, a jury convicted Lewis of capital murder. After the jury recommended capital punishment, the trial court sentenced Lewis to death by lethal injection.
On June 19, 1996, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the death sentence and remanded the case to the trial court for a new punishment hearing.
On February 27, 1997, a second Smith County jury recommended capital punishment, and the trial court again sentenced Lewis to death by lethal injection.
On June 23, 1999, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Lewis’s sentence.
Lewis also filed an application for a state writ of habeas corpus with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The court rejected Lewis’s application on April 19, 2000.
Lewis then appealed his conviction and sentence in federal district court. On June 20, 2002, the Eastern District of Texas, Texarkana Division, denied his petition for a federal writ of habeas corpus.
On January 22, 2003, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the federal district court’s denial of relief.
In May 2003, the 241st Judicial District Court of Smith County, Texas, scheduled Lewis’s execution to take place on August 7, 2003.
On June 20, 2003, Lewis’s filed a subsequent state habeas application alleging that he is mentally retarded.
On July 24, 2003, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals remanded Lewis’s subsequent state habeas application to the trial court and granted Lewis a stay of execution.
In October 2003, Lewis moved the trial court for appointment of counsel and for permission to obtain investigative and expert assistance to pursue his mental retardation claim. When the court denied his request, Lewis sought a writ of mandamus, but on April 28, 2004, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision.
On October 6, 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Lewis’s petition for a writ of certiorari.
On April 15, 2005, the Fifth Circuit granted Lewis leave to file a successive federal habeas petition conditioned on the denial of his pending state writ.
On June 29, 2005, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied Lewis’s subsequent state writ application.
In August 2005, the 114th Judicial District Court set Lewis’s execution for September 7, 2005; however, the federal district court granted Lewis’s unopposed motion to stay the execution.
On June 22, 2007, the federal district court denied Lewis’s second federal habeas petition.
On August 12, 2008, the Fifth Circuit vacated the district court’s judgment and remanded for rehearing.
On October 19, 2010, the federal district court again denied relief.
On November 20, 2012, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of relief.
On January 11, 2013, the 114th Judicial District Court of Smith County set Lewis’s execution for April 9, 2013.
On February 18, 2013, Lewis filed a second petition for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court.
For additional information and statistics, please go to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website at www.tdcj.state.tx.us.