Texas Executes a Man who Killed No One

Update 2: Good news.

"After carefully considering the facts of this case, along with the recommendations from the Board of Pardons and Paroles, I believe the right and just decision is to commute Foster's sentence from the death penalty to life imprisonment," Perry said in a statement.

The Republican governor did not address the Texas law that allows an accomplice to be given the death penalty, but said: "I am concerned about Texas law that allows capital murder defendants to be tried simultaneously, and it is an issue I think the Legislature should examine." Foster was tried alongside Mauriceo Brown, the man who actually murdered 25-year-old law student Michael LaHood Jr. and was executed last year.

Good for Rick Perry, I suppose. Its hard to say though, seeing as he presided over at least three other state sponsored killings this week. In reality, good for the activists all over the country who brought this horrible injustice to attention and forced Perry and the Parole board to make their decisions with an outraged public looking on.

And it wouldn't be right to forget the specific activists who played a large part in this. First,over at Afrospear and second, blogger Eddie G Griffin. Amazing work.


Go ahead and read his story. h/t to The Field Negro and Color of Change.

On August 15, 1996, Maurecio Brown got out of Kenneth Foster's car and killed Michael LaHood. When the shots were fired, 19-year-old Foster was in the driver's seat, over 80 feet away, and had no idea that that LaHood was about to commit murder. Foster was no angel that night. Earlier, he had drunk beer, smoked marijuana, and waited while Brown and other friends got out of his car to rob people at gunpoint, twice.

Brown was executed on July 19, 2006 for LaHood's murder. If Foster didn't kill LaHood, why is Texas trying to execute him? It's the "law of parties," which states that a person can be held responsible for a crime committed by someone else. Texas is the only state where the law of parties applies to capital cases, where someone can be executed because of someone else's actions. In this case, the prosecution claimed that Foster was guilty because he "should have anticipated" the murder.

In 2005, a U.S. District Judge ruled that the Law of Parties had been misapplied, violating Foster's Eighth and 14th Amendment rights, and overturned his death sentence. But a federal circuit court overruled that decision, so now Foster's fate is in the hands of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. Unless the Pardons Board acts, Foster will be killed by the state for failing to read Maurecio Brown's mind.

The Pardons Board rules today. If they recommend commutation of Foster's death sentence, Gov. Perry decides Foster's fate. The Pardons Board rarely commutes sentences, and Governor Perry, citing strong support in Texas for the death penalty, did not uphold the only commutation recommended during his term (he has overseen 159 executions since 2000).
Even though the odds are against Foster, we know that public pressure can make a difference. Every ounce of pressure could help.

Texas is a rather disgusting state when it comes to executions. They make a real party out of it, scheduling death after death. Please visit FN's site and call the pardon board. I hope Foster gets a reprieve. I seriously doubt he will. Man, I really really hate Texas.

update:Another post on this over at newsrack.


mdhawk said...

FYI, after a 6-1 vote to commute Foster's sentence to life in prison by the Pardons and Parole Board, Gov. Perry has decided to commute the sentence and spare Kenneth Foster's life.

Frankly, I'm shocked that Perry would allow this bump in the road towards topping George Bush record executions, but I guess anything is possible.

Bruce Godfrey said...

Andy, you better show Rick Perry some love, even if you have to hold both your nose and your stomach. He saved the life of a probably innocent man.