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Texas Board: Give Female Prisoner Reprieve

The Texas parole board has recommended delaying the execution of a woman accused of killing her husband and two young children, leaving the chance for a reprieve in the hands of the governor.

Gov. Rick Perry (search) can agree with the board's 5-1 vote or allow the execution to go ahead as scheduled Wednesday. Perry spokeswoman Kathy Walt said late Tuesday the case was under review.

Defense attorney David Dow noted that Perry rejected a clemency recommendation earlier this year for a mentally ill inmate.

"I'm cautious until the governor endorses the recommendation," Dow said.

Frances Newton (search), 39, could become the first black woman executed in Texas.

She was convicted in the 1987 shooting deaths of her husband and two children, ages 20 months and 7. Prosecutors said Newton killed her family to collect $100,000 in insurance benefits.

The parole board recommended delaying her execution for four months so her attorneys can conduct new ballistics tests on the pistol prosecutors said was the murder weapon and chemical analysis on the clothing she was wearing.

On Monday, the state's highest criminal court refused to delay the execution, as did a federal appeals court in New Orleans on Tuesday.

Prosecutors have opposed the requests, saying Newton's claims were resolved at her trial and are nothing new.

Ten women have been executed in the United States since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, two of them in Texas. Newton would be the fourth woman executed in Texas since the Civil War.

Newton's punishment was shaping up as a relatively low-key affair, unlike in 1998, when hundreds of demonstrators and reporters flocked to the prison as Karla Faye Tucker (search) was executed for hacking a man to death with a 3-foot pickax.

Two years later, 62-year-old Betty Lou Beets (search) went to her death for killing her fifth husband.

About 50 women are on death row in the United States.