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“Barbarism Cloaked In the Black Robes of Justice”

pols_feature-28237.jpgThis Thursday, the State of Texas is going to execute Kenneth Foster, a man who didn’t kill anyone. James Rucker of ColorOfChange sends this (via email):

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.

Sean-Paul Kelly of the Agonist was a good friend of Michael LaHood’s. You can read his impassioned plea to help Kenneth Foster here.

Texas prosecutors are trying to use the ‘law of parties” to “widen the net for capital punishment.” A Dallas Morning News editorial board states “Not a Killer: Kenneth Foster does not deserve execution.” The ColorOfChange folks are asking that people call the Governor at 512-463-2000 and the Pardons and Paroles Board at 512-406-5852 and ask them to spare Foster ‘s life. Then email calls AT colorofchange DOT org to let them know that you did.

(photo of Kenneth Foster with his girlfriend Nichole and their daughter Nydesha)

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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