Friday, August 31, 2007

Meet Kenneth Foster (Alive!)

I sit here stunned: a goofy smile on my face, a tear on my cheek. This must be what victory feels like. Forgive me if I’m not familiar with its near-narcotic euphoria.

For folks who haven’t heard, Kenneth Foster’s death sentence was struck down yesterday by Texas Gov. Rick Perry after a 6-1 recommendation by the Perry appointed Board of Parolees. This is just a tremendous victory for those of us around the world who fought to make sure yesterday wasn’t the day Kenneth was put to death. We must take the time to remember Michael LaHood who lost his life 10 years ago at the hands of Mauricio Brown who was driving in Kenneth’s car. But we also remember the words of Sean Paul Kelly, Michael’s closest friend who opposed Kenneth’s execution. Kelly told the press:

…the execution of a young man who didn’t even kill Mike? That’s not justice. It’s senseless vengeance, a barbarism cloaked in the black robes of justice.

When victories like this occur, every link in the chain matters. Without question, the strongest links in this chain was Kenneth and his family. Kenneth said from the outset, “It’s my belief that if this does not become a political issue then I have no chance.”

That was the plan of action laid out for the DRIVE movement on death row, the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and other organizations that worked on his case. We made it political, asking the question over and over why Kenneth should be put to death for driving a car?

It was also the inspiration for a group of athletes and even a couple of sports writers, to stand together and demand that this man not be put to death. I want to take a moment and thank Etan Thomas, Dr. John Carlos, Lee Evans, Toni Smith, Dave Meggyesy, Jeff “Snowman” Monson, Dennis Brutus, William Gerena–Rochet, Neil DeMause, Doug Harris, Lester Rodney, Rus Bradburd and the INIMITABLE Scoop Jackson.

Below is a letter I received from Kenneth a couple weeks back with some of his thoughts on sports and society. I thought when I would eventually publish it, it would be a kind of eulogy. Instead it is a celebration of the struggle so desperately needed to see any kind of progress. It’s also a testament to his spirit. So good people, meet Mr. Kenneth Foster.

In struggle and sports,
Dave Zirin

Dave Zirin is the author of the new book Welcome to the Terrordome (Haymarket). He is a columnist and contributor for Nation Magazine and Slam. He can be reached at: Read other articles by David.

The Economist: Capital punishment in America, Revenge begins to seem less sweet

The Economist has a long article titled, "Capital punishment in America, Revenge begins to seem less sweet" which suggests that Americans are turning against the Death Penalty. The article ends by mentioning the fact that 30% of the murders in United States are unsolved and how we can solve more murders by abolishing the death penalty.

In Boulder, Colorado, Howard Morton tells a different story. His son Guy disappeared while hitch-hiking in the Arizona desert in 1975, when he was 18. For more than a decade Mr Morton continued to search for his son. Then, in 1987, a retired deputy sheriff read about Guy in a newspaper, and recalled finding a skeleton in the desert in the year he had disappeared. The medical examiner had mislabelled it as belonging to a Hispanic woman, but dental records proved it was Guy. He had been found with a broken knife blade in his chest. The murderer was never caught.

Mr Morton discovered that over 30% of murders in America are unsolved, like his son's. He found out, too, that the states spend millions of dollars putting a handful of murderers to death while detection is under-financed and thousands of murderers walk free. He became an ardent abolitionist. Anyone close to a murder victim “wants the son of a bitch who did it to die,” he says. “But you've got to catch the son of a bitch. That's more important."

A message from the Foster family

Dear Friends, Family and supporters,

Oh my God, where to start. We are estatic, overwhelmed and full of smiles!
Finally the Death row nightmare is over, no more seeing him from behind glass- soon we will be able to hug him. Nydesha will be able to hu him :-)

Without all the hard work from all of you- it would have not been possible. You guys worked around the clock, made the calls, wrote the letters, marched with us, signed petitions, helped us organize, contacted the media and made this cross bareable for us.

We thank God for having you allm we won guys- and all because of the fantastic team work!!!!!

We love you all!

Tasha & Kenneth
Kenneth Sr & Lawrence

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lessons learned from the Kenneth Foster Victory

There are certainly many lessons to learn from the Kenneth Foster victory. The victory was the result of the entire Texas anti-death penalty movement working together, including every anti-death penalty organization in Texas, as well as Kenneth's lawyers and family members and some long-time supporters of Kenneth from other U.S. states and around the world.

One important lesson is that organizing works. In particular, affecting public opinion through grassroots organizing works. Pressuring elected officials works. Texas is not a lost cause, as some people outside Texas sometimes seem to think. Here in Texas, we have known for some time that we are making progress. But, we also know that the national anti-death penalty movement should be investing more time and money in Texas. Investing more financial and other resources into the Texas anti-death penalty effort would pay off in more of the type of successes that we saw with the Save Kenneth Foster Campaign.

The Texas anti-death penalty movement would like to ask for more help from national funders and organizations. Some people do understand that Texas is where a lot of effort should be expended. For instance, we are thrilled that the Journey of Hope is coming back to Texas this fall. But, we need more resources and more help. With increased attention to Texas, we will be able to win more often and we will be able to significantly reduce popular support in Texas for the death penalty and greatly reduce the number of executions that take place here.

Party Time! 5 PM Governor's Mansion

If you are in Austin, please join us at the Governor's Mansion (5 PM) to celebrate this victory.

Rick Perry commuted Kenneth Foster's death sentence

Aov. Rick Perry accepted a recommendation from the state parole board and said today he would spare condemned prisoner Kenneth Foster from execution and commute his sentence to life.

Foster had been scheduled to die tonight.

"After carefully considering the facts of this case, along with the recommendation 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.

"I am concerned about Texas law that allowed capital murder defendants to be tried simultaneously and it is an issue I think the legislature should examine."

The seven-member parole board had voted 6-1 to recommend the commutation.

Contact the Governor by Telephone and Thank him for this decision!


  • Citizen's Opinion Hotline: (800) 252-9600
    [for Texas callers]

  • Citizen's Assistance and Opinion Hotline: (512) 463-1782
    [for Austin, Texas and out-of-state callers]

  • Office of the Governor Main Switchboard: (512) 463-2000
    [office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST]

  • Citizen's Assistance Telecommunications Device
    If you are using a telecommunication device for the deaf (TDD), call 711 to reach Relay Texas


  • Office of the Governor Fax: (512) 463-1849


WE DID IT!!! Gov. Perry commuted Kenneth Foster's sentence.

Board votes to spare Texas man set to die tonight

Please contact governor Perry ASAP and ask him to accept Board of Pardons and Paroles decision.

* Office of the Governor Main Switchboard: (512) 463-2000

* Office of the Governor Fax: (512) 463-1849

Associated Press

HUNTSVILLE — The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended today that Gov. Rick Perry spare condemned prisoner Kenneth Foster from execution and commute his sentence to life.

The vote from the seven-member board was 6-1. The announcement came less than seven hours before Foster was scheduled to be taken to the death chamber for lethal injection.

Perry does not have to accept the highly unusual recommendation from the board whose members he appoints.

There was no immediate response from the governor's office.

Foster was the getaway driver and not the actual shooter in the slaying of a 25-year-old man in San Antonio 11 years ago.

Foster acknowledged he and his friends were up to no good as he drove them around San Antonio in a rental car and robbed at least four people 11 years ago before the slaying of Michael LaHood Jr.

"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."

Their robbery spree, while they were all high on alcohol and marijuana, turned deadly when Foster followed LaHood and his girlfriend to LaHood's home about 2 a.m. Aug. 15, 1996. One of Foster's passengers, Mauriceo Brown, jumped out, walked up to LaHood, demanded his wallet and car keys, then opened fire when LaHood, 25, couldn't produce them. LaHood, shot through the eye, died instantly.

Brown ran back to Foster's car and they sped away. Less than an hour later, Foster was pulled over for speeding and driving erratically. Foster, Brown, Dwayne Dillard and Julius Steen — all on probation and members of a street gang they called the Hoover 94 Crips — were arrested for LaHood's slaying.

Brown and Foster, tried together, were convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. Foster was set to die 13 months after Brown, 31, was strapped to the same death chamber gurney in Huntsville for lethal injection.

Foster's execution would make him the third Texas prisoner executed in as many days and the 24th this year in the nation's most active capital punishment state. On Wednesday evening, John Joe Amador, 32, was put to death for the slaying of a San Antonio taxi driver 13 1/2 years ago.

Foster's scheduled execution piqued death penalty opponents who criticized his conviction and sentence under Texas' law of parties, which makes non-triggermen equally accountable for the crime. Foster would join a number of other condemned prisoners executed under the statute, including one put to death earlier this year.

"This is a new low for Texas," said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA, a human rights organization that opposes the death penalty in all cases. "Allowing his life to be taken is a shocking perversion of the law."

Foster's lawyers were arguing in the courts that statements from Dillard and Steen, who were in Foster's car that night, clarify and provide new evidence that support Foster when he says he didn't know Brown was going to try to rob and shoot LaHood.

"I didn't kill anybody," Foster insisted from death row. "I screwed up. I went down the wrong path. I fault myself for being in this messed-up system."

Foster said he was some 80 feet away from the shooting.

"It's hard for you to anticipate how Brown is going to react," Foster said. "Texas is saying flat out: You should have known better.

"In life, we have hindsight. Texas is saying you better have foresight. They're saying you better be psychic."

Dillard now is serving life for killing a taxi driver across the street from the Alamo two weeks before LaHood's slaying. Steen testified at Brown's trial and received a life sentence in a plea bargain.

Brown testified at his trial the shooting was in self-defense, that he believed LaHood had a gun. Authorities, however, never found another weapon near LaHood's body. Foster did not testify.

"I thought what (Brown) said was good enough," he said from death row.

Mike Ramos, among the Bexar County prosecutors handling the case when it went to trial, said he found Foster's claims unbelievable and was irritated by a publicity effort to spare Foster.

"When you let somebody out of your car with a loaded handgun, what do you expect?" Ramos said. "If he didn't realize it could happen, I think he's a liar."

Last weekend a group of Foster supporters picketed outside an Austin church Gov. Rick Perry attends.

"These guys are rewriting history," Ramos said. "He was far from any kind of angel they're trying to portray."

Ramos said it was clear to him that Foster was "the puppet master pulling all the strings" during the robbery spree.

Nico LaHood, whose brother was killed, said Wednesday he was frustrated that people were willing to believe only Foster's story, which he called "ridiculous and not true."

"I don't know what dynamics are going on that allow us to make the person who is the wrongdoer to become the victim in this case," LaHood said. His brother, he said, was being "lost in the whole thing."

On Wednesday, Amador asked for forgiveness for himself and peace "for people seeking revenge toward me," then was put to death for the fatal shooting of San Antonio taxi driver Mohammad Reza Ayari.

Another execution, the first of five scheduled for September in Texas, is set for next week when South Carolina native Tony Roach faces injection Wednesday for the strangling of an Amarillo woman, Ronnie Dawn Hewitt, 37, during a burglary of her apartment nine years ago.

Dan Rather takes on the Death Penalty

I will leave for Huntsville in a few minutes. Hopefully there will be a positive response from BPP.
I will try to do some audio blogging from Huntsville. In the meanwhile, the word has come out that
Dan Rather Reports is going to Examines the Death Penalty Cases of Ruben Cantu and Carlos De Luna, September 4 at 8:00 p.m. ET

Next Tuesday’s Dan Rather Reports will reveal new details surrounding two capital murder cases in Texas - leading to the executions of two men that may have occurred as the result of flawed evidence.

In “Did Texas Execute Innocent Men?” Dan Rather speaks with key players in the cases of both Ruben Cantu and Carlos De Luna both of whom died by lethal injection in Texas where more than one-third of the nation’s executions take place.

Kenneth Foster in the spotlight

Apparently Al-Jazeera is interested in Kenneth Foster's case and are planning to send their crews to Texas. London's Independent and LA Times also have some interesting articles. Capitolannex also weights in the United Methodist Church's doctrine against the death penalty.
Very interesting that both Governor Perry and his fellow congregants can so easily look over that chapter in their governing tents. It seems as though Governor Perry’s fellow congregants should have been outside along with the protesters.
The Huffington Post has published Katie Halmer's great letter to Gov. Rick Perry

Dear Governor Perry,

First of all, happy belated 400th execution day! It seems like only yesterday that Texas reinstated the death penalty, and yet you have managed to execute 400 people since 1982. Oops, scratch that, you killed DaRoyce Mosley Tuesday night, so make that 401 people, right? Actually, by the time you get this letter, you may have killed your 402nd inmate, John Amador, scheduled for August 29th. Or you may even have killed the 403rd person, Kenneth Foster, scheduled to die August 30th.

As you know, Kenneth Foster's fate is in your hands. In 1996, when Michael LaHood was fatally shot, of course, the man who pulled the trigger was not Foster, but Mauriceo Brown. And sure, Foster was inside a car at the time of the murder. Sure, 80 feet away from the crime scene, he was unaware of what Brown was up to. And sure, Amnesty International says, "In essence, Kenneth Foster has been sentenced to death for leaving his crystal ball at home. There is no concrete evidence demonstrating that he could know a murder would be committed. Allowing his life to be taken is a shocking perversion of the law." The law of parties allows anyone involved in anyway in a crime to be found as guilty as the person who committed the crime. Texas is unique because it applies this law to death penalty cases. In other words, Texas is so special, it will execute you for a crime it admits you did not commit.

I know you have received letters from leftist anarchist wing bats like Archbishop Tutu, Jimmy Carter, and the European Union, who are trying to bully you into granting a stay of execution. So I wanted to write you my own letter, urging you to hold your ground. Stay strong Mr. Governor! I so admire how you stood up to those EU girly boys, telling them, "230 years ago, our forefathers fought a war to throw off the yoke of a European monarch and gain the freedom of self-determination. Texans long ago decided that the death penalty is a just and appropriate punishment for the most horrible crimes committed against our citizens. 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."

Who cares what the EU pansies think? When it comes to the death penalty, you are in good company. Some of the most freedom-loving countries-- Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, Zimbabwe--have capital punishment. I, like yourself, am a traditionalist and love your argument that "the people of Texas decided a long time ago that the death penalty was a good idea." After all, Texas has a long proud history of old noble decisions going back to the War of Northern Aggression.

And, of course, "Texans are doing just fine governing Texas," representing its people and defending their interests. I think the Texan record speaks for itself. You are number one in percentage of uninsured, and number two in non-immunized children, and teenage pregnancy. You are number five in poverty and child poverty (no fair).

Now some people like to claim the death penalty is racist. OK, of the three men killed this week, two are black and one was Latino. But, out of the 10 upcoming executions, one of them is white.

Governor Perry, when you feel yourself faltering, just remember the strong gubernatorial roots that ground and nourish you. President George Bush, arguably Texas's greatest governor, executed 152 people in his unique caring way. In his page-turning autobiography A Charge to Keep, Bush wrote, "I take every death penalty case seriously and review each case carefully.... Each case is major because each case is life or death." Bush took the cases so seriously, that he would even read the clemency pleas, according to his then legal council Alberto Gonzalez, "from time to time". Signing 152 death sentences was so stressful for Bush, sometimes the poor governor had to resort to impersonating death row inmates' pleas for clemency in order to decompress.

So please listen to reason, Mr. Governor, your own reason:

"Texans long ago decided that the death penalty is a just and appropriate punishment for the most horrible crimes committed against our citizens."

Like sitting in your car and not being clairvoyant.

To tell Governor Perry what you think about Kenneth Foster's case, call 512-463-2000, fax (512) 463-1849 and visit here.

Katie Halper

Star-Telegram and Express-News

"No Needle" is title of another Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial against execution of Kenneth Foster.

Although his statement could have been phrased a tad more gently, Gov. Rick Perry was on target when he informed the European Union that Texans aren't too concerned about what Europeans think when it comes to his state's use of the death penalty.

Calls from South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former President Jimmy Carter to spare the life of Death Row inmate Kenneth Foster Jr. are likely to receive similar dismissals.

But Perry and the state Board of Pardons and Paroles should be listening to what Texans say when it comes to today's scheduled execution by lethal injection of Foster, who did not fire the gun that ended Michael LaHood's life that Aug. 15, 1996, night in San Antonio.

Thirteen members of the Texas House petitioned Perry and the board to commute Foster's sentence to life without parole.

Those voices -- those of legislators who, in the words of their Aug. 23 letter, "are responsible for making the laws of the State of Texas" and "also assume responsibility for protecting our system of justice from mistakes" -- argued that the execution of Foster "is just wrong."

No one who has read the case file can argue that Foster is a complete innocent. He was driving the car that carried the triggerman, Mauriceo Brown, who was executed in 2006 for killing LaHood. Foster was present earlier in the evening when Brown and two other men committed two robberies.

Prosecutors in this case used the state's "law of parties" statutes to hold Foster criminally responsible for the actions of another. Under Section 7.02(b) of the state penal code, if two or more "conspirators" agree to commit a crime and in the process commit another, each conspirator is guilty of the crime committed if the crime was "one that should have been anticipated."

Foster deserves to spend a long, long time -- if not the rest of his life -- behind bars for what he did do that night. But he does not deserve to die -- not today, not at the hands of a state executioner.

Rebeca Chapa has published a column in San Antonio Express-News titled: Lone Star State's broken system metes out irreversible 'justice'

By this evening, unless something dramatic happens at the governor's office, Kenneth Foster will be dead by the state's hand. He will be the 403rd person executed in Texas since 1982.

No big deal, right? We do it all the time. In fact, we've already executed two people just this week, so what's one more criminal?

But here's the rub: Foster didn't kill anybody. He drove the vehicle and was certainly there that night, but he did not take a life. That alone should keep him off death row.

Foster was involved in the 1996 robbery and murder of Michael LaHood Jr. He and three others tailed LaHood and his girlfriend to a home in the U.S. 281-Bitters Road area. The 2 a.m. robbery turned deadly when Mauriceo Brown got out of the car and shot LaHood, the son of a prominent local attorney, at close range in the face.

Brown was executed last year. The two others, Julius Steen and DeWayne Dillard, are serving prison sentences for other crimes that are not related to the LaHood case.

Foster and Brown were convicted together based on the Texas law of parties, which also applies to capital cases. In essence, the jury found Foster guilty because he should have known that Brown was going to shoot LaHood.

But sworn testimony, including from two of his co-defendants, indicates that there was no conspiracy, something the jury would had to have concluded to apply the death sentence to Foster.

No one argues that Foster is an angel. And certainly no one argues that he is innocent of a crime. But executing him is going too far.

"If Kenneth Foster's execution is permitted to go forward, it will mean that the death penalty in Texas predates Old Testament law, which limits one life for a life," Keith Hampton of Austin, Foster's attorney, said Wednesday.

"If you are not deserving for clemency because you killed, and you can't be spared when you didn't, not only is there officially no clemency in Texas, but we've expanded death to bounds not seen since before Moses," Hampton said.

Of course, this comes as no surprise. We do everything big in Texas.

This year, two developments at the Legislature served to further cement that reputation.

On the one hand, we expanded the list of capital crimes to include repeated child molestation. Although child molesters certainly rank among the more heinous among us, even some child advocates oppose the death penalty. Child abuse is often committed within the family circle, which could deter members from reporting abuse if they believe their "loved one" could get the needle.

It also, they say, could prompt predators to kill their victims to avoid identification and subsequent punishment.

On the other hand, legislators decided for the third time against creating an innocence commission designed to review documented cases of wrongful conviction. At least 28 cases of wrongful conviction have turned up since 2001, when a law began allowing inmates to petition for DNA testing.

So ... we want to kill more people, but we don't want to confront information that might indicate we got the wrong guy. (The innocence commission wouldn't have even considered the cases of executed felons, and it still didn't pass!)

In another pathetic case, an El Paso man is sitting on death row despite widespread belief among many close to the case that his confession was coerced as a result of police misconduct. The prosecutor in the case told the Chicago Tribune in 2000 that he would have suppressed the confession if he had known about the misconduct.

Without that confession, Cesar Fierro would not be on death row.

There are hundreds of men, and 10 women, awaiting the final punishment in Texas. And yet we still have violent, horrible crime. Something's not working.

Isn't it time we put an end to yee-haw justice?

Contact BPP members

As you all know we are not going to have an answer until tomorrow from the BPP. What we need to do is contact any journalists or media contacts you have and ask them to call the Board members and ask them what is going on? Why is there even a decision to contemplate? As Keith Hampton mentioned earlier tonight at the Press conference in Austin - If clemency is denied to those who kill and also to those who do not - then who is it for? If they deny it to
Kenneth then they will be making a strong statement that clemency in Texas is truly non existent and the process is strictly a formality. We need journalists to call each member and get on their ass and state this to them and put the heat up a notch - make them know that if they dont do what is right the media will hold them accountable - each individual member (we
will know how each member votes). Below are the phone numbers to each of the board members. They must know they are being watched closely by the media and there
names will be all over the papers if they deliver an

Rissie Owens
Phone: (512) 936-6351
Phone: (936) 291-2161

Charles Aycock, Board Member
Phone: 806-359-7656

Linda Garcia

Jose L. Aliseda,

Juanita Gonzalez

Conrith Davis

Jackie DeNoyelles

Not the Killer, but Still Facing a Date With the Executioner

Thats the title of Ralph Blumenthal's article on NY Times.

HOUSTON, Aug. 29 — Kenneth Foster has a date on Thursday with the executioner’s needle. Not for killing anyone himself, but for what he was doing — and might have been thinking — the night in 1996 when he was 19 and a sidekick gunned down a San Antonio law student.

Ensnared in a Texas law that makes accomplices subject to the death penalty, Mr. Foster, 30, is to become the third death row inmate this week, and the 403rd since capital punishment resumed in Texas in 1982, to give his life for a life taken.

But unlike most others condemned to death in this state, Mr. Foster, a former gang member and aspiring musician and now a prison poet from San Antonio, is not a murderer in the usual sense. He was convicted and sentenced to die for abetting a killing — 80 feet away — that he might, or might not, have had reason to anticipate.

The gunman is dead, executed last year. Two accomplices are serving life terms.

Now, failing a last-minute reprieve, Mr. Foster, the group’s driver in a robbery spree — who argues that he never was party to the murder — is facing lethal injection. His guilt, affirmed so far in every appeal, including five turned away by the United States Supreme Court, hinges in large part on difficult questions of awareness and intention.

Other states also hold co-conspirators responsible for one another’s criminal acts in a so-called law of parties. But few of those states have a death penalty. And no other state executes anybody on the scale of Texas.

With polls showing capital punishment still enjoying majority support in Texas and around the country, but by dwindling margins, the Foster case has spurred vigils and protests from abroad to the death house in Huntsville, as well as a backlash by victims’ rights advocates who still mourn the law student, Michael LaHood Jr., slain at 25.

It has also blurred concepts of guilt and innocence. If Mr. Foster is not legally guilty of murder, as his lawyer, Keith S. Hampton, and supporters contend, many find it hard to pronounce him blameless.

“I’d hate to use the word ‘innocent,’ ” said his father, Kenneth Foster Sr., a former heroin addict who told a church audience in Houston on Saturday that he used to take his baby son with him on drug runs and petty crimes. He said his son “should be punished to some degree, but not put to death.”

At the heart of the case is Texas’ law of parties, under which those conspiring to commit one felony, like a robbery, can all be held responsible for an ensuing crime, like murder, if it “should have been anticipated.”

In 1982, in Edmund v. Florida, the United States Supreme Court found that the Constitution barred the death penalty for co-conspirators who did not themselves kill.

But five years later in Tison v. Arizona, the justices carved out an exception, ruling that the Eighth Amendment did not forbid the execution of a defendant “whose participation in a felony that results in murder is major and whose mental state is one of reckless indifference.”

According to evidence in the case, on the afternoon of Aug. 14, 1996, Mr. Foster had borrowed his grandfather’s rented white Cavalier and was driving three companions — Julius Steen, Dewayne Dillard and Mauriceo Brown — on a robbery spree through San Antonio. Mr. Steen and Mr. Brown, with Mr. Dillard’s gun, held up four people.

After midnight, they trailed two cars to a street where Mr. LaHood had just driven home, followed by a companion, Mary Patrick. Ms. Patrick and Mr. Steen exchanged some remarks. Mr. Brown took the gun, chased Mr. LaHood and shot him dead. Ms. Patrick later characterized it as a robbery.

Mr. Foster and his companions fled but were soon stopped by the police. Mr. Foster denied participating in the earlier robberies or the shooting, claiming the group had been out looking for clients for his music business.

He was tried with Mr. Brown, who was also convicted and was executed in July 2006. Mr. Steen agreed to testify for the prosecution in exchange for a life sentence. Mr. Dillard is serving life for a separate murder committed with Mr. Steen.

Mr. Steen testified he did not believe that Mr. Foster had known that Mr. LaHood would be robbed, although Mr. Steen said, “I would say I kind of thought it.”

Later Mr. Dillard testified in Mr. Foster’s appeals, claiming that before they reached the LaHood house, Mr. Foster sought to end the night’s spree so he could return the car to his grandfather. Therefore, Mr. Foster’s lawyer, Mr. Hampton, argued, his client lacked the mindset to be legally culpable for the killing.

Mr. Hampton also contended that Mr. Steen and Mr. Dillard had been improperly withheld as crucial witnesses for the defense, and that mitigating testimony about Mr. Foster’s upbringing had not been presented.

“I was in jail at the time he got arrested,” said Kenneth Foster Sr., adding that a strategy of portraying his son as churchgoing and well-raised had backfired.

“One of the jurors said he should have known better,” the elder Mr. Foster said. “They never called me. If the mitigating evidence had been put on, he never would be on death row.”

Haramia KiNassor/Kenneth Foster, Jr. Transferred Clandestinely

By Walidah Imarisha

The indignities in Haramia KiNassor/Kenneth Foster, Jr.’s case climbs as
KiNassor was transferred to Huntsville Prison, aka the Walls, where the
executions take place. Death row Inmates are usually transferred to
Huntsville at noon the day of their execution. But because KiNassor has been
deemed a “security threat,” he was transferred early, without prior notice
to him or his family and supporters. In fact, it was through unofficial
channels that his family found out about the transfer; otherwise they would
have showed up at the Polunsky Unit for their last visit with him as usual.

At first, it was unclear whether or not KiNassor’s family and supporters
would be able to visit him tomorrow, but his father received a call from the
administration saying they would be allowed to visit at Huntsville, which is
45 miles from Livingston, where everyone is staying. Visiting starts at 8

This clandestine transfer comes at a time when KiNassor’s supporters are
still awaiting word back from the Board of Pardons and Paroles (He also
still has an emergency appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court). It was
originally thought a positive sign that they had not responded. Usually, the
Board summarily denies an appeal by 1 p.m. The fact that they chose not to
give a response today, and to wait until tomorrow, was taken to mean they
were intensely discussing this situation.

But in light of this transfer, there is a new theory: that perhaps the Board
of Pardons and Paroles has not responded to delay the response of KiNassor’s
supporters, both inside and outside the walls.

The DRIVE Movement, which KiNassor helped to found, is an organization of
death row inmates who engage in non violent civil disobedience to protest
the inhumanity of the death penalty. KiNassor is one of the spokespeople and
prison authorities are apparently very nervous that the execution of an
innocent man who has organized so tirelessly against the death penalty will
spark a protest in the prison they will not be able to control.

At this point, the officials’ motivations are all speculation.

What is known is that the same day KiNassor was being called a “security
threat” and transferred to Huntsville, 16 Texas state representatives
encouraged Governor Rick Perry, collectively and individually, to grant him
clemency. They joined the ranks of thousands of people around the globe
calling for KiNassor’s clemency, including South African Archbishop Desmond
Tutu and Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

What is also known is that KiNassor’s death is scheduled to be the third one
this week. First was Deroyce Mosley, with John Amador being executed today
at 6:20 p.m.

KiNassor’s supporters are asking everyone to act now, to organize all out
right now without waiting for a response as the hours slip away, and
pressure Governor Perry for a stay. Perry has the power to veto the Board of
Pardons and Paroles’ decision, regardless of what it is.

Perry’s contact information is:
Gov. Rick Perry:
Phone (512) 463-1782
Fax (512) 463-1849

Austin, Thursday, August 30, 5:00 PM, Governor's Mansion (Lavaca at
11th)?EXECUTION PROTEST AND VIGIL?Even in the eleventh hour things could
turn for Kenneth. If you can't make it to Huntsville, come out to stand
with others against the execution.

Thursday, August 30:
3pm-7pm: Protest the execution of Kenneth Foster Jr .outside the Ellis Unit
in Huntsville Texas. Groups from all over the state will converge to stand
against this injustice and demand until the very end that the State of Texas
do the right thing and stop this execution.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

An Archbishop Speaks Out on Kenneth Foster's Case

Roman Catholic Archbishop Daniel N. DiNardo has called for Kenneth Foster's death sentence to be commuted. An excerpt:
On behalf of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, I urge you to recommend clemency for Kenneth Foster who is scheduled to be executed on August 30, 2007.
Although Mr. Foster did not murder, intend to murder, or know that a murder was to take place, he was sentenced to death under the "law of parties" for the
murder of Michael LaHood. I have tremendous sympathy for the family of Mr. LaHood and in no way wish to downplay the suffering they have endured as a result of his death. But my faith tradition also compels me to ask for mercy for Kenneth Foster.

The Catholic Church fully believes that those who commit terrible, violent crimes must be incarcerated, both as just punishment and in order to protect
society. We stand in solidarity with victims and their loved ones. However, when it
comes to matters of life and death, morality and common sense call for justice, mercy, and for careful safeguards.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus teaches that a true neighbor is one who
shows mercy (Luke 10:37). Showing mercy does not mean neglecting to administer justice or punish people for their crimes. Showing mercy does mean exhibiting compassion toward all of our brothers and sisters, and providing them with an opportunity for atonement and rehabilitation. The facts of Kenneth Foster's case clearly provide an opportunity to extend
clemency, in order to show mercy.

Sen. Kirk Watson responds

My friend Krista Cole just received this letter from her representative in the Texas Legislature. He mentions "our State's problem with the use of Capital Punishment." It seems that the criticism of Texas around the world is starting to influence the legislature.

Dear Krista,

Thank you for writing to me regarding the scheduled
execution of Kenneth Foster. I appreciate that you
have taken the time to share your views with me.

As you know, Kenneth Foster is scheduled to be
executed tomorrow. The Board of Pardons and Paroles
is set to review his case today, and Governor Perry will have the opportunity to consider taking action to save Mr. Foster's life tomorrow.

I have received many letters and phone calls requesting that I do what I can to stay the execution of Mr. Foster. As a State Senator, while I have no
direct authority over the individual decisions of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, and I have expressed my opinion to the Governor. I have been in contact with
the Governor's office, and I have had the opportunity to express concern about the scheduled execution of Mr. Foster.

Our state's use of capital punishment is an issue that concerns me very much. Since my first job after law school when I worked as a clerk for a federal judge, I
have worked to ensure that our justice system produces fair and just results. I hope you will be pleased to know that I am using the time I have during the
upcoming months to carefully study how capital convictions are reached Texas. I plan to work with advocacy groups and my colleagues in the Senate on
legislation during the next session to improve our system. I know a lot of progress has been made over the years, but there is still more that needs to be
done. I look forward to the opportunity I have in the State Senate to work for improvements.

Thank you for taking the time to write. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can ever be of assistance.


Kirk Watson

City of Rome supports kenneth Foster

Italian authorities have announced that they will light the Coloseum in Rome tomorrow night in support of stopping Kenneth Foster's execution. The lighting will begin around 2 PM Texas time.

Tomorrow's Execution

Tomorrow I will be traveling to Huntsville, Texas protesting the state murder of Kenneth Foster. I will try to do some audio blogging during the day, including some interviews with the protesters and Kenneth's family members. Just come back to this blog for updates. By this weekend I will have some video footage of the Huntsville protest posted online.

In the meanwhile check out Capital Defense Weekly for Kenneth Foster updates (BPP decision) and other death penalty related court cases. Capital Defense Weekly should be a most read for all hardcore legal junkies.

BPP did NOT make a decsion on Kenneth Foster

Taken from TMN blog:
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles did NOT make a decision today on the case of Kenneth Foster, Jr. There was a crowd of about 75 people who had gathered at the governor's mansion in Austin waiting on the decision, but it never came. Now, we expect a decision tomorrow. We do not know what the reason is for the delay, but it is not really the best way to conduct a decision about an execution when the governor will have much less than 24 hours to consider whatever the board recommends. In fact, the governor should go ahead and issue a 30-day stay because of the BPP's failure to give him 24 hours to make a decision.

In the meantime, everyone should continue to contact the board of pardons and paroles and the governor tonight and tomorrow by phone, fax or email.

Another stain on justice, Texas style

Thats title of a last minute editorial by the Austin American-Statesman calling on Governor. Perry and the Board of Pardons and Parole to "spare a life, uphold justice and bring a semblance of honor to Texas this week..."

Gov. Rick Perry can spare a life, uphold justice and bring a semblance of honor to Texas this week, if only he will seize the opportunity.

Perry has the power to stop the execution of death row inmate Kenneth Foster, scheduled to die Thursday for a crime everyone acknowledges that he did not commit. The state's Board of Pardons and Paroles also can halt the execution.

Foster, 30, is not the sweetheart anti-death penalty activists insist he is. He was a thug, armed robber and drug dealer in San Antonio. But he did not commit the murder that put him on death row.

Foster was driving the car with three criminal friends on a robbery spree the night Michael LaHood, 25, was shot and killed in 1996. One of Foster's passengers, Mauriceo Brown, shot LaHood in the face during an attempted robbery. Brown was executed for that crime last year.

Foster was convicted under Texas' Law of Parties statute that considers those who had a major role in a capital crime as guilty as the actual killer. Texas is the only state that applies the Law of Parties to capital crimes, and an estimated 80 death row inmates have been condemned to die under that statute.

Foster and the others in the car with him say Foster had no idea Brown would kill LaHood. But prosecutors and a jury said Foster should have known that Brown intended to shoot LaHood and should have prevented it.

The inescapable problem with the Law of Parties is that a jury has to go back in time and read the defendant's mind, guess at his intention. The sentence is based on what the jury believed Foster was thinking when the crime occurred. No one's life should hinge on guesswork by jurors.

A federal district judge overturned the death sentence in 2005 after determining that Foster didn't play a major role in the conspiracy to rob LaHood. But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court and reinstated the death sentence in 2006. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Foster's appeal.

So now it's up to Perry or the Board of Pardons and Paroles to do the right thing and spare Foster's life by granting him a reprieve. It's the only just thing to do. If the governor or parole board allows this execution, Texas will be further stained by injustice.

Since the death penalty was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1976, Texas has executed 400 people, far more than any other state. That's more than a third of all the 1,100 executions in the United States in that same period.

Everyone can sympathize with LaHood's family and share their grief at their loss. But granting Foster a reprieve in no way endangers this state's embrace of the death penalty or threatens to turn a cold-blooded killer loose on the streets.

It only assures that one man is not put to death for a crime committed by someone else. It's simple justice.

Kenneth Foster update

We are expecting a decision from Board of Pardons and Parole regarding Kenneth Foster anytime now.

Democracy Now is reporting that former President Jimmy Carter and South African archbishop Desmond Tutu have urged Texas to stop Thursday's scheduled execution of death row prisoner Kenneth Foster. Meanwhile Dissident Voice is reporting that Rep. Charlie Rangel has shut the door on Kenneth Foster.

They didn’t want to let us up at first, but at last Rangel’s policy advisor came down to meet our community delegation. He sat us around a cafeteria table, and explained to us that Rangel was a very busy man, that he hadn’t read the letter and that we hadn’t gotten it to him in time. He explained that whether we liked it or not, Kenneth had been convicted by a real law in Texas, and that Rangel had to be careful what he said about that. He seemed to have forgotten that the fight for racial justice in the US meant overturning “real” laws like slavery and Jim Crow. Unjust laws are made to be broken. Rangel, the man said, had a pile of papers on his desk. This representative of our elected official sat at a table with those who’d been railroaded by the criminal injustice system and had their lives destroyed by it and told them that Kenneth’s case was not urgent enough.
Court TV has done some good reporting on Kenneth Foster, which includes videos, pictures from Kenneth's childhood and his poems.
"It's up to us what we let this process be. We can let it be a curse or we can let it be a blessing. And I've chose no matter what, through all the criticism, through all the doubts, through all the hate, I said I'm going to make this something positive. I'm going to make it a blessing, I'm going to go through something hard and I'm going to find something better through it, and every day that's what I've tried to make this process be."
Finally has published an opinion piece by Christopher Hill, who is the Capital Punishment Project State Strategies Coordinator for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Like a number of other states, Texas’ Law of Parties establishes criminal liability for one person if he or she assists another in committing a felony. It also states that a person is responsible for the acts of another when in the attempt to conspire to commit one felony, another felony is committed. This liability exists even if a person did not commit the second felony and had no intent to commit the second felony.

Even in non-capital cases, this criminal liability is unfair. Any first year law student can tell you that a crime has two elements; the criminal intent and the criminal act. According to a principle deeply ingrained in American law, a person should be punished based both on his actions and his intent. The felony murder rule should be abandoned.

Clearly, however, in capital cases the Law of Parties makes absolutely no sense, logically or legally. It is nothing short of barbaric to execute a human being for a murder he or she did not commit and did not intend to take place.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Interview with Kenneth Foster and John Amador

Former SA Current reporter, David Maass recorded these interviews with Kenneth Foster and John "Ash" Amador on July 25, 2007.

He has donated these great raw interview files to the public domain, which means any of you indepedent producers out there (whether it be blogs, podcasts, radio, video) can feel free to chop out the bits you need and use them for whatever projects you like. In a email conservation David said, "It was my second interview with Foster, and so rather than ask him to go over his case again, I asked him to talk about the LaHood family, his daughter, and how it feels to face execution. Amador spoke about his case, what he thought convicted him, and his dreams. He also speaks about how Foster's case is far more unfair than his. They're not really meant to be listened to from start to finish ... but chopped up and listened to in bits. "

You can contact David Masss by sending an email to d.maass(at) with any questions.

John Amador

Kenneth Foster

Sam Milsap's letter to Texas Board of Parons and Paroles

August 27, 2007

Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
P. O. Box 13401
Austin, Texas 78711-3401

RE: Kenneth Foster

To the Honorable Members of the Board:

I am writing to urge you to recommend clemency in the Kenneth Foster case.
I am no wild-eyed, pointy-headed liberal. I am the former elected Bexar
County District Attorney (1983-1987); I am responsible for the prosecution of
more than a few death penalty cases all of which produced convictions and

Because you have been buried with letters from throughout the world, I will
not rehash the facts and legal problems with the case in this letter; they
are obvious. There is nothing I can say about the legal issues or evidence
that you have not already heard ad nauseam.

Fortunately, I was no longer the Bexar County District Attorney when this
horrible crime was committed. Had I been, there is every likelihood that I
would have decided to seek the death penalty against Foster because I could have
done so--and that would have been a mistake. With the benefit of 20
additional years of life experience, I now believe that no useful purpose is served
and it is morally wrong to execute a person based on nothing more than the
law of parties.

Is there no limit to our lust in this state for retribution? How many people
must we execute for this crime before justice is served? Having already
executed the shooter, what benefit results from the execution of someone who was
simply nearby and had no idea that a murder would be committed? As the
civilized world watches in amazement that a single American state has executed
400 people in the last 25 years, what does it say about us? if we're willing to
execute someone who was in the car when this horrible crime was committed?
Surely, there is a limit to what we are capable of in this state.

There are tough cases and there are easy cases. This is an easy case. If we
can't say no to execution in a case like the Kenneth Foster case, there is
no practical limit to our thirst for vengeance. I urge you to recommend that
the Governor grant clemency in this case.

Sincerely yours,

Sam D. Millsap, Jr.

Monday, August 27, 2007


The final push is on to save Kenneth Foster, Jr. from execution on Thursday.

The Save Kenneth Foster Campaign -- a coalition of activists and Foster's extended family -- has been working to stop the execution of a man who killed no one -- who was convicted, essentially, for driving a car, for being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

The campaign has held several high profile demonstrations and other events in Austin and San Antonio. Major Texas newspapers -- including the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, the Dallas Morning News, the Waco Tribune, the San Antonio Express News, the Austin American-Statesman, among others -- have run editorials against the execution.

The campaign has done everything in its power to bring public attention to this egregious case and to give the Board of Pardons and Parole and Governor Perry every reason to do the right thing. Kenneth and his comrades on death row are in struggle with us, refusing to comply with their own executions.

On August 29th, another death row prisoner, Joseph Amadour is scheduled to be executed. Since, the 22nd of August, Kenneth and Joseph have been fasting in protest of their scheduled executions. Come join us in this 11th hour for Kenneth Foster and all death row prisoners!

In Austin ---

Wednesday, August 29, 5:00 PM, Governor's Mansion (Lavaca at 11th)

Thursday, August 30, 5:00 PM, Governor's Mansion (Lavaca at 11th)
Even in the eleventh hour things could turn for Kenneth. If you can't make it to Huntsville, come out to stand with others against the execution.

Livingston / Huntsville ---

Come out to Livingston (location of Texas’ death row) and Huntsville (location of Texas’ execution chamber) to protest in support of Kenneth Foster and of John Amador. Both men are from San Antonio and have been protesting together by refusing to comply with their executions.

Livingston, Wednesday, August 29, 1:00 - 4:00 PM
Across from the Polunsky Unit: 3825 FM 350 South, Livingston, Texas

Huntsville, Wednesday, August 29, 4:00 - 7:00 PM
Protest the execution of John Amador outside the Huntsville Unit.
815 12th St., Huntsville, Texas

Huntsville, Thursday, August 30, 3:00 - 7:00 PM
Protest the execution of Kenneth Foster Jr. outside the Huntsville Unit. Groups from all over the state will converge to stand against this injustice and demand until the very end that the State of Texas do the right thing and stop this execution.
815 12th St., Huntsville, Texas

Call 417-2241 or contact for more info.


The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles will make a decision on Wednesday whether to recommend clemency for Kenneth. For Gov. Rick Perry to consider clemency for Kenneth, five of the seven members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles have to recommend clemency. Call the Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. Rick Perry and urge them to grant clemency to Kenneth Foster Let's keep up the pressure!

Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles:
Phone (512) 406-5852
Fax (512) 467-0945

Gov. Rick Perry:
Phone (512) 463-1782
Fax (512) 463-1849

For information about the case, latest news, coverage and editorials from major national and Texas news outlets:

Kenneth's web site:

Send donations to:

Velocity Credit Union, P.O. Box 1089, Austin, Texas 78767
Account name: To Save Kenneth Foster
Account number: 831766.1

Boston Legal - Alan Shore Closing On Death Penalty

The following is a video clip from ABC's Boston Legal. However the 9 judges look and talk very similar to the judges currently sitting at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

AMA code of ethics on capital punishment

The American Medical Association's code of ethics says that while it is an individual decision whether to support the death penalty, doctors should not participate in executions because they are members "of a profession dedicated to preserving life when there is hope of doing so."

It defines participation as:

- Any action that would directly cause the death of the condemned.

- Assisting, supervising or contributing to the ability of another person to cause the death.

- Any action that could cause an execution to be carried out.

- Monitoring vital signs.

- Attending or observing an execution as a physician.

- Offering technical advice.

- Selecting injection sites or starting intravenous lines.

- Prescribing or preparing lethal drugs or supervising their injection.

- Consulting with or supervising the lethal injection team.

AMA members who violate the ethics code can have their membership revoked.

Source: The American Medical Association

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Governor Perry Greeted By Kenneth Foster Execution Protestors At Church Today

KLBJ Newsroom

A group hoping to change Governor Rick Perry's mind about an execution, met him at his Tarrytown church today. Ariel Kay with 'We The People' says Kenneth Foster should not be executed for driving a car during a botched robbery in 1997. Kay says Foster was sentenced to death under the Law of Parties - because he was present during a crime, he was just as guilty as the person who actually committed the crime. Fosters' family is participating in today's protest. He is scheduled for execution by lethal injection August 30th.

last modified: 8/26/2007 10:40:56 AM

Executing this man is bloodlust, not justice

Thats title of the opinion piece by San Marcos attorney Lamar Hankins against execution of Kenneth Foster on today's Waco Tribune.

You might have missed the story. After all, the football season is starting, and we had all the excitement of a tax-free weekend.

But Texas is about to execute an innocent man, that is, a man who killed no one, who did not want to kill anyone, who did not help kill anyone.

On these points, there is unanimous agreement between all the parties involved. How could this happen in Texas?

Kenneth Foster is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection Thursday for a murder committed by Mauriceo Brown, a friend of Foster who was executed for murder last year.

The incident in question is the murder of Michael LaHood. In an altercation, Brown pulled a gun and shot LaHood. Brown testified that LaHood had drawn a gun on him first. Whatever happened, it is undisputed that Foster sat in the car 80 feet away from the shooting.

There is no evidence that Foster had felonious intent. When he heard the shot, he started to drive off before Brown got back in the car, a fact kept from the jury.

Part of what got Foster charged with capital murder is a legal concept known as “the law of parties.”

In Texas, a person is responsible for the criminal conduct of another if he intentionally assists the other in committing a crime. If a second crime is committed, and it can be anticipated, he can be held criminally responsible for that crime, as well.

Problematic law

Nearly thirty years ago, I was appointed to represent a capital murder defendant in Brazos County where the “law of parties” was involved.

In that case, my client agreed with another person to do physical harm to the victim and the victim died as a result.

Even though there was no direct evidence that my client intended the death of the victim, his conduct fit clearly within the “law of parties.”

This is not the case with Kenneth Foster. Foster was merely present in the vicinity of the murder, not a participant in it in any way except that he was driving the car in which the killer, Brown, left the scene.

It should surprise no one who keeps up with such cases that Foster is a black man accused of killing a white man, a factor in many capital murder cases. Michael LaHood was the son of a well-known attorney in San Antonio. The LaHood family, through the media, made it known it wanted the guilty parties executed.

The prosecuting attorney withheld evidence that would have supported Brown’s testimony that LaHood was armed and that Brown shot him in self-defense.

Foster was tried with Brown, a decision by the judge and prosecutor that prejudiced Foster’s chance to receive a fair trial. Foster’s court-appointed attorney made no inquiries into Foster’s background. Had he done so, he would have found many factors that would have mitigated against sentencing him to death by lethal injection.

Proponents of capital punishment argue that we need this punishment for those who are the worst of the worse; for those who commit murder under the most cold and heinous circumstances; for the irretrievably lost among us. None of these conditions comes close to describing Kenneth Foster.

This case is not about revenge against Kenneth Foster because Foster didn’t kill Michael LaHood, nor did he even want to kill him. It is about blood lust.

Whether the proponents of capital punishment take refuge in Scripture or their general outrage at crime, their hands will be covered with the blood of Kenneth Foster if this travesty of justice is not stopped.

Dallas Morning News Come Out in Favor of Kenneth

Today another Texas paper, Dallas Morning News came in support of Kenneth Foster.

Kenneth Foster was a robber. He was a drug user. He was a teenager making very bad decisions.

He is not an innocent man.

But Mr. Foster is not a killer.

Still, the State of Texas plans to put him to death Thursday.

Ours is the only state in the country to apply the "law of parties" to capital cases, allowing accomplices to pay the ultimate penalty for a murder committed by another. Mr. Foster was driving his grandfather's rental car when one of his partners in crime killed Michael LaHood.

That night in 1996, Mr. Foster and three of his buddies appeared to be looking for trouble. They robbed a few folks, chugged some beers and smoked marijuana. But, as all four have testified, murder was never part of the plan. Mr. Foster and two others sat in the car nearly 90 feet away when the fatal shot was fired.

They had followed an attractive woman into an unfamiliar neighborhood, where they encountered her boyfriend, Mr. LaHood. The other passengers have testified that they had no designs on robbing – let alone shooting – him. And the admitted triggerman said that his friends did not know what he was doing when he approached the victim.

But using the law of parties, prosecutors argued that Mr. Foster, who was 19 at the time, either intended to kill or "should have anticipated" a murder. For this lack of foresight, he has been sentenced to death.

The death penalty, proponents argue, is the appropriate punishment for the worst of the worst criminals. They express confidence that death row inmates are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

But the case against Mr. Foster falls far short on both counts.

A 19-year-old robber/getaway driver cannot be classified as one of Texas' most dangerous, murderous criminals. On this point, even prosecutors agree: Mr. Foster did not kill anyone.

By applying the law of parties to this capital case, prosecutors are asking jurors to speculate on whether he should have anticipated the murder. Conjecture isn't nearly good enough when a defendant's life is on the line.

And relying on a mind-reading jury leaves plenty of room for reasonable doubt.

Several other states have imposed or are considering a moratorium on executions, relying instead on life without parole as a tough alternative. Even though Texas juries now have the option of life without parole, our state continues to broadly impose capital punishment.

The unfair application of the death penalty and the possibility that an innocent man could be executed compelled this newspaper to voice opposition to capital punishment. This case only reinforces our belief that state-sanctioned death is often arbitrary.

While Mr. Foster's execution date approaches, the two passengers from his car sit in prison with life sentences. His only hope for a reprieve lies with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and the governor.

This case raises serious questions about whether state leaders are comfortable with this degree of ambiguity in death cases. We aren't.

Mr. Foster is a criminal. But he should not be put to death for a murder committed by someone else.

Texas is the only state that applies the "law of parties" to capital cases, allowing accomplices who "should have anticipated" a murder to receive the death penalty. Kenneth Foster is scheduled to die Thursday under this provision. You can urge the governor to stop the execution.

Write the governor:
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428

E-mail the governor through his Web site:

Call the governor's opinion hotline:

Friday, August 24, 2007

Video of civil disobedience at the governor's mansion

About 200 members of Kenneth Foster's family, friends, and supporters rallied on Tuesday in Austin to demand that Governor Rick Perry hear the Foster family's pleas for clemency.

In a dramatic turn, six activists sat down to block the gates of the Governor's mansion in a physical demonstration of solidarity with Foster's non-cooperation with the criminal justice system. In June 2000, a dozen activists were arrested during a similar protest of the execution of Gary Graham (a.k.a. Shaka Sankofa). In the face of the State's unwillingness to engage the Foster family and other supporters, the crowd spread out across the street, blocking traffic for forty-five minutes

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Texas' 400th execution

Yesterday I joined the Death Penalty Abolition Movement in Houston protesting execution of Ray Conner at the Old Hanging Tree. Here is what Houston Chronicle has to say. They also have posted a short video from the protest online.
The execution was the 400th in the nation's most active death penalty state since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976. Texas resumed carrying out executions six years later.

Conner asked for forgiveness repeatedly and expressed love to his family and his victim's family, who watched him through windows in the death chamber. Before he began he speaking, he asked the warden his name, for permission to speak longer than the usual two to three minutes allotted and to have his victim's daughter pointed out to him.

He specifically asked one of his victims' relatives to look at him, but she didn't and remained turned to the side with her hands clasped in prayer.

"This is destiny. This is life. This is something Allah wants me to do," he said in his lengthy statement.

"I want you to understand," he said. "I'm not mad at you. When I get to the gates of heaven I'm going to be waiting for you. Please forgive me."

"What is happening to me is unjust and the system is broken," Conner said.

He was pronounced dead at 6:20 p.m., eight minutes after the lethal drugs began to flow.

Letters from Death-Row

We received the following message from Kenneth announcing that he and John Joe Amador will protest their executions starting tomorrow, August 22.

Like Kenneth, John is from Bexar County. He is scheduled to be executed on August 29.

In the name of Human Rights; all religious doctrines of Peace, Love and Forgiveness; and in the vision of reform and atonement, on the above said date myself (Kenneth E. Foster Jr.) and John Joe Amador have committed to a protest of passive non-participation in our executions. Together we have decided to go on a spiritual missin to oppose our systematic executions in the hopes to open the eyes of people that think this horrific process is ok.

Starting on the 22nd we will engage in passive non-participation in this process in the same fashion that civil rights fighters stood down the cruel and inhumane treatments of their time. We are here to say that we do not condone violence and will not promote it. We recognize that violence will not solve our problems, just like executions do not help our society. We are committed to peace and grassroots activism. We are not doing this for ourselves, but for YOU, the people, to demonstrate to you that we do not agree with this process. We do this for YOU, the people, to show that we are new men today and that we must stand down the death penalty. We seek to harm no person and we will not. We pray to compel this society to look at the death penalty in a new light.

Starting on the 23rd we will begin refusing all food. We will not eat any more meals served to us. Our only nourishment will be liquids.

Bexar County had lined up two San Antonio executions in a row - John Amador's for the 29th and mine for the 30th. While my case is known, Mr. Amador's is not. I will give Mr. Amador the opportunity to write his own words regarding the injustices that he has faced at the hands of Bexar County. Since I have a visual plight I am here to say that the State is wrong in its desire to kill me. If I was as equally guilty as the 2 other men in the car, and these 2 men are not on death row, then I should not be either. This is an obvious injustice and railroad.

As we enter into being 7 days away from our execution we will be placed in cells that have video cameras where we can be observed 24-7. We cannot condone this invasion. We cannot participate in the way our humanity is being stripped. While we are NOT indifferent to the victims, we are also not indifferent to the fact that we are still human beings. But for a country that professes it wants a good society it's hard to acknowledge that when the prison population is 2 million and rising and the conditions are left horrific. So what is really the purpose of the Penal system? We also ask you to think about this - in any other country when people are lined up and slaughtered it's called genocide. They said Sadaam Hussein committed mass Genocide. It has happened in Darfur and Rwanda and Presidents of Cuba and North Korea have been accused of it. But when America does it it is called justice? Texas will surpass 400 murders this year. It we are to be unjustly taken then we do not want to go silently. We will not walk to our executions and we will not eat last meals. We will not give this process a humane face.

We ask all of you to stand for human rights. We are men that are dedicated to change and betterment. We are dedicated to give atonement to the system and society. Who of us will be left to guide the lost? We sacrifice this for society, not for us, because death row is a cancer in the body of this country. Our actions are antibodies to oppose this atrocious disease.

I, as a DRIVE representer, stand in the name of a better day. We will be on a DRIVE and we do it with prayers, love and understand - even for those that hate us. We don't have them and we don't hate the TDC officers that will usher us to our murders. Reports have said that Governor Perry is doing the will of the people. So, we come to you, the people, to relook at this process.

For those that have read about my case you now see how arbitrary capital punishment can be. AS long as it exists these things WILL continue to happen. Why? Because human beings are fallible. Many people want us to be the men we was 10 years ago. But we're not. We could point fingers and talk about scams and corruption going on. We can talk about the ENRON's and the Scooter Libby's, the Guantanamo Bay's and Abu Ghraib's. But we won't because we know you know that these things exist. We will only point our fingers up.....up.....and say that WE MUST GET UP. We must get up the way the CEDP has gotten up and made a movement. We must get up like these medias, politicians and even friends to the victims have gotten up. Some of us see a new way. It is possible.

And so, on August 22nd we commit ourselves to something that is beyond us. Perhaps we are just tools for a greater purpose.

We will not lift a finger to another person. We will only lift our voices and spirits. We will allow YOU, the people, to be the force that must be reckoned with.

We close this Directive in the words of Martin Luther King Jr.:

"Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can't murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can't establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can't murder hate. Darkness cannot put out darkness, only light can do that."

Let's shine to the world.

In struggle,

Kenneth E. Foster Jr. & John Joe Amador"

DRIVE Movement

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Live blogging from the Governor's Mansion

7:00 PM Hundreds of protesters have arrived at the Governor's Mansion demanding Governor Rick Perry to stop execution of Kenneth Foster.

7:10 PM Half of the Lavaca street is filled with protesters.

7:15 PM People have blocked Lava street. If you are in Austin area you should come and check it out. Its an amazing scene!

7:20 PM About 10 APD and DPS police cars have arrived. No arrests yet.

7:30 PM APD cars have blocked the street from both sides with people inside.

7:45 PM About 10 people are sitting in front of the entrance gate to the governor's mansion, probably planning a civil disobedience. However it seems that the governor and DPS have decided to don't arrest anybody in order to avoid media attention.

Lethal Drugs: Divesting from Texas

Texas Moratorium Network's blog has posted English version of an article published by Norwatch. The article addresses the Norwegian Oil Funds investment in companies that produce the lethal drugs used in executions. Later, Norway's leading television station, NRK, picked up the issue and ran it as the lead story on the evening news. As According to TMN:

The Texas government also agrees that divestment is a legitimate means of
affecting policy change in foreign countries. During the last session of the
Texas Legislature, Governor Perry signed into law SB
, which places restrictions on the ability of public retirement systems
in the state of Texas to invest in companies that are beneficial to the Sudanese
government and are indirectly facilitating the genocide occurring in Sudan. The
bill restricts the public retirement systems in the state of Texas from doing
business with certain companies associated with the Sudanese government. In the
Texas House it passed 146 in favor, 0 opposed, 1 Present, not voting. In the
Texas Senate it passed with 29 in favor and zero opposed. If Texas can divest
from companies doing business in a country because of human rights violations,
then another country, such as Norway, could place such restrictions on companies
doing business in Texas or facilitating human rights violations in Texas, based
on Norway's human rights norms.

Norwatch has listed four companies that produce the drugs used in the lethal injection process:

Hospira Inc., USA, was separated from Abbott Laboratories in
2004. Hospira retained the production of a series of pharmaceuticals, including
sodium thiopental (Pentothal®), to which Abbott had exclusive rights. The
company produces all of the three drugs sodium thiopental (Pentothal®),
pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride. (The Pension Fund has invested 6,2
million euros in the company’s shares and 4,4 million euros in bonds.)• The

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, Israel, bought in January 2004
Sicor Pharmaceutical, previously Gensia Sicor Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which
produces pancuronium bromide. (The Pension Fund has 22 million euros in shares,
no bonds.)

Baxter International, USA, makes potassium chloride. (The Pension Fund has 53,4 million euros in shares and 13,3 million euros in bonds.)

Cardinal Health, USA, distributes potassium chloride injections produced by Baxter and pancuronium bromide injections produced by Sicor/Teva. (The Pension Fund has 83,8 million euros in shares and 15,2 million euros in bonds.)Consequently, the Pension Fund has altogether invested 194 million euros in these four companies, of which 165,4 million euros is in shares and 329,5 million in bonds.In addition, the Pension Fund has share investments in the distributor AmerisourceBergen (USA) and in the producer Wyeth (USA) of, respectively, 7,1 million euros and 194 million euros, but Norwatch has not received answers as to whether they still distribute or
produce the pharmaceutical substances in question.

Baxter International has published a response to Norwatch's article on their website:

For more than 70 years, Baxter has dedicated itself to saving people's lives. We
do this by offering products and services that help treat people with some of
the most challenging medical conditions, including cancer, hemophilia, immune
deficiencies, infectious diseases, kidney disease and trauma. Use of our
products to end lives contradicts everything we're in business to do - provide
life-saving therapies.

Baxter markets products such as pancuronium
bromide and potassium chloride for very important and legitimate medical uses.
These products have been used safely and effectively for decades. Pancuronium
bromide is commonly used with anesthesia to keep patients from moving during
surgery and to keep critically ill patients who are receiving ventilation during
recovery more comfortable. Potassium is a critical element to the normal
functioning of our body, and along with sodium, is present in all cells
throughout our body and important for proper functioning. There are several
disease states where potassium is lost inappropriately from the body through
excretion in the urine and therefore it is important that potassium be replaced
to correct these deficiencies. Clearly, use of these products like these to
carry out the death penalty in our nation's prisons falls outside the use and
dosage approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Addressing the complex
issue of capital punishment by withdrawing these products from the market,
however, would adversely affect the millions of patients each year who need
these products.

Baxter does not control the application of these
products, which are widely used and available through many sources, not just
directly through Baxter. Our products are sold through a variety of channels,
including wholesalers and distributors, buying groups, and hospitals, who then
make the product available to the end-user. We focus our efforts on actively
educating licensed medical professionals about the use of our products, as
approved by regulatory authorities and described in the product label and
package insert. Nevertheless, it remains lawful, as well as standard medical
practice, for health care providers to administer products for uses that are not

While we cannot control how our products are
administered, it is our intent that our products be used in a safe and
appropriate manner.