[UPDATE: Governor Rick Perry commuted Kenneth Foster’s sentence to life.]

Please, death penalty advocates, explain to me how someone who didn’t contract for or commit a murder faces execution?

Eleven years ago, [Kenneth] Foster was driving a car with three passengers. One of the passengers left the car, got into an altercation and shot a man dead. The shooter was executed for this crime last year. At the time of the shooting, Kenneth Foster was 80 feet away in his car.

But Foster was sentenced to die as well under what’s known as the law of parties. The law imposes the death penalty on anybody involved in a crime where a murder occurred.

The victim of the crime, Michael LaHood, was killed by Mauriceo Brown, who was executed last year. It has been reported that LaHood’s mother supported the execution of Brown, but has not spoken up on behalf of Foster. Former President Jimmy Carter and South African archbishop Desmond Tutu have called for a stay of execution.

Kenneth Foster’s fate is in the hands of the Board of Pardons and Parole and Texas Governor Rick Perry. The board rarely has recommended that a sentence be commuted, such as reducing it to life in prison, as Foster’s attorney has requested. That would leave Foster with a final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Houston Indy Media):

The Board of Pardons and Parole, has put off the decision regarding Kenneth Foster Jr. / Haramia KiNassor until tomorrow. It was set to respond to the appeal today, where 5 out of the 7 members have to recommend pardon, and then Governor Rick Perry has to approve it. If the Board denies a pardon, Perry has the power to grant a 30 day stay.

This isn’t a question of whether Foster is guilty of any crime — everyone acknowledges that he drove the getaway car after the murder took place and had participated in two robberies that night — but does he deserve to die as if he pulled the trigger? Foster knows he’s no choirboy.:

“It was wrong,” Foster, 30, said recently from death row. “I don’t want to downplay that. I was wrong for that. I was too much of a follower. I’m straight up about that…”I didn’t kill anybody. I screwed up. I went down the wrong path. I fault myself for being in this messed-up system.”

Perry, by the way, who governs a state that has executed 400 people since the the death penalty was reinstated (1976), doesn’t think much about considering a moratorium on executions.

“The European Union strongly urges Governor Rick Perry to exercise all powers vested in his office to halt all upcoming executions and to consider the introduction of a moratorium in the State of Texas,” the EU’s current Portuguese presidency said in a statement.

…”While we respect our friends in Europe, welcome their investment in our state and appreciate their interest in our laws, Texans are doing just fine governing Texas,” Perry’s spokesman, Robert Black, said in a statement…”Texans long ago decided that the death penalty is a just and appropriate punishment for the most horrible crimes against our crimes.”

If Foster is executed, it won’t be a surprise. After all, how many people who are actually wrongfully convicted sit on death rows around the country, waiting and hoping The Innocence Project will exonerate them through DNA testing? In North Carolina, Dwayne Allen Dail was exonerated just yesterday — the country’s 207th person freed by DNA testing. How many innocent people weren’t so lucky and were executed by the state? That’s why a relatively unsympathetic figure like Foster, an accomplice, may die tonight.

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding