Thursday, September 13, 2007

Kenneth's New Address

Kenneth Foster Jr. #1451768
Mcconnell Unit
3001 South Emily Drive
Beeville, TX 78102

September 13, 2007

Kenneth Foster to Remain in Solitary Confinement Despite Commuted Sentence

Supporters of former Texas death row inmate Kenneth Foster, Jr. learned today that he will remain in solitary confinement indefinitely at the McConnell Unit in Beeville. He has been placed at the lowest security level, meaning he has the highest amount of restrictions on his daily activities. He will only be allowed two visits per month and will not have contact visits.

Family and supporters of Foster had expected that his commutation would result in looser restrictions on his visitations. Specifically, they had hoped he would be able to have contact visits with his wife, Tasha Narez-Foster, and his daughter, Nydesha Foster. Foster has never had physical contact with his wife and has not touched his daughter since she was an infant.

“This is a very discouraging development,” said Lily Hughes of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, “Obviously, we are happy that Kenneth is no longer on death row, but the fact that he is living under basically the same conditions as death row is unacceptable.” Inmates on Texas’ death row live in 22-hour lockdown and do not have contact visits with family.

Foster was scheduled to be executed on August 30 for the murder of Michael LaHood, Jr. in San Antonio. Foster did not shoot the gun that ended LaHood’s life, but was driving the car carrying the actual triggerman, Mauriceo Brown. Foster was convicted and sentenced to death under the Law of Parties, which allows the state to seek convictions for those present at the scene of a crime as if they committed it. Since Foster’s original trial, the other men in the car that night have testified that Foster had no idea LaHood would be shot.

Foster’s case generated widespread international attention over the summer, mainly due to the Austin-based movement against his execution. Formed in May, the Save Kenneth Foster Campaign held weekly meetings, public rallies, and contacted media in an effort to halt Foster’s impending execution.

Approximately six hours before Foster was to be put to death, Governor Rick Perry approved the Board of Pardons and Paroles’ 6-1 recommendation in favor of clemency. "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 following the commutation, “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."

Friday, September 7, 2007

A New Message from Kenneth!

I wanted to sit down and address a few people directly, because I think it's important to give thanks to those that made this victory possible. If it wasn't for certain people I know I would not be alive today.

First and foremost, I give praise and thanks to The Most High for giving me the strength to carry on through all these years for I know that I didn't do it by myself. I've watched too many men give up, condemn themselves, mutilate themselves, try to commit suicide and then there was those that did commit it. When we say that we live in a hell the description is pretty close. I didn't just start praying when I got this date. I've been striving towards spiritual attainment for a LONG time. But, prayer takes time and it does work.

Without the support and love of my grandparents and Uncle Lloyd I wouldn't be here. They've been the rock foundation to my house since DAY ONE! There were here when it started and they were here at the end. Much of who I am today is because of them and I have a life long service of betterment dedicated to them.

And to my daughter for being the warrior princess she is. Her love made and kept me.

I have to give an unmatched love to my wife who has been by my side for over 2 years now; a person whom when was hated on she just found a way to dig in harder! No relationship is perfect, but through the fire we just become more purified. We've rolled with all the punches and if we've made it this far then there is no stopping or turning back.

Much love to my dad for stepping up when it counted. The same to my cousin Beverly Fisher whom rallied the troops. Big love to all my cousins, Aunts and Uncles that came to my side. You all touched my heart in a MAJOR way. Thank you for being there, because your vibes kept me positive.

Then I've got to give HUGE props to my good friend Adam Axel for doing amazing things. This young man has done some things that probably many of you don't realize. This guy was literally like a central command for me. You all have no idea. He acted as a central station to get me messages/letters/printouts/emails/updates from all over the world. Almost weekly I was getting 100 page Fed-X packages. Outside of the general campaign work he went above and beyond what was expected. I was definitely blessed to have you on my side. Outside of the work he kept me level headed and inspired. He's got a great future ahead of him.

And have no doubts about it I have to extend gigantic revolutionary greetings to the vanguard of the anti-death penalty movement the CEDP! These people are gladiators when it comes to grassroots activism and they definitely were the force behind this frontline. Bryan McCann you definitely helped us move mountains, and the whole Austin crew (Randi, Stefanie, Laura, Dana and the other comrades). We did this from Coast to Coast - made the people hear us. These other so called anti death penalty groups need to take some notes from how this group moves and functions for if they followed suit we may be able to abolish this death penalty very shortly. Just think that if all the anti death penalty groups moved in this fashion. It's time to revamp their strategies. Use the CEDP as an example they ARE the vanguard.

While there's no other groups that I can extend that type of thanks to there are individuals of groups that I'd like to thank for showing me some great support and solidarity. Big props goes to Steve Hall for making some big things happen. Thanks to Scott Cobb for holding an event on my behalf and also to Dave Atwood for being there. All of this played a role in this victory.

And from the top of my heart let me say that the love and support of Mary Felps and her crew helped me get where I am today. I was visited weekly by JoAnne Scott. They did to the best of their ability all they could for me. Much of that credit goes to her assistant JoAnne who mailed, typed, editted and so on. She definitely was a crutch that held me up. She is also the person that got Sean Paul Kelley on our team. Mary did amazing work through writing folks and did me a great service through an Amicus for Clemency to the Parole Board. There's much more too, but some things I'll just be taking to the grave with me one day (smile). They are amazing people.

I want to end with giving respect to some media channels that did me a great service: Pacifica, Forth Worth Star Telegram, Austin Statesman, Dallas Morning News. I want to specially thank KXAN for covering this story in a fair way. They were very much the professionals. I think these people gave extra support my way and they must know that I'm not going to let them down. There was so many petitions that I can't name them all.

I must give much love to June and her Italian Film crew who tirelessly covered this fight. To Chiara and the crew - I love you all too. I know I'm missing some folks by name but I got you in my heart. I especially got those in my heart that some of you never knew, but has been here for years like my god-mum Christine in England who helped me know love in new ways. Petra with ALIVE in germany. Grazia with PRC in Italy, who helped me with Sheila Murphy.

And yes, I owe Sheila Murphy so much for if nothing else being a spiritual friend. But she did an amazing Amicus Brief and we all owe ArchBishop Desmond Tutu so much love for supporting us. My French girls did amazing things - Emilie, Vi, Fatou, Kadia. Can't leave out my amazing web-master Ms. Jennie. That site was the heart of this body and she ran it like a pro! This has turned into a book, but it was necessary. My heart in overflooded with love and gratitude.

I haven't forgotten you, Keith Hampton. Though you gave me the blues on more occasions than I can name you stuck in there and kept me alive for 10 years where I could build this support team that helped make this happen. I've seen guys get to death row AFTER me and be done with their appeals and executed in 6 years. So, I'm thankful for the motions, supplements, Certs, motions (again,) rehearings etc.. that you filed.

Let it be known that I'm still not done fighting. As I've said as long as I have breath then freedom is within my grasp. I fully believe that it is not my destiny to spend the rest of these years in prison, though I know that being here for a minute is part of what I was called to do. My place is out there with you all working for this Struggle. For now I will do it from within here. But trust me, my gears have not stopped spinning on how to gain my freedom. (You should see the smile on my face right now.) I exit this message with nothing but love on my lips, but you will hear from me again. I have a new environment to adjust to, but I won't let one minute slip past me. I have so much that I want to pursue and do. And it will be done!

Peace, Love and Respect to you all.

Somebody send Mr. Rick Perry a complimentary DRIVE tshirt for me as a token of my deep gratitude!

Always, your soldier on the battlefield!


Friday, August 31, 2007

A Message From the Fosters

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 hug 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 all. We won guys- and all because of the
fantastic team work!!!!!

We love you all!

Tasha & Kenneth
Kenneth Sr & Lawrence

Thursday, August 30, 2007


August 30, 2007

Movement to Save Kenneth Foster Wins Historic Victory

Family members and supporters of Kenneth Foster, Jr. are jubilant in the reaction to Texas Governor Rick Perry's today's announcement today that he would commute the death sentence of Kenneth Foster, who was convicted under the controversial "Law of Parties" for a 1996 murder in which he had no actual involvement. The Board of Pardons and Paroles had recommened clemency by a vote of 6-1. Foster's execution had been scheduled for tonight.

In a statement announcing the commutation, Perry said, "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."

Reaction among Foster's family and friends included both joy and disbelief. “We felt a bit of disbelief because Perry’s decision was so unprecedented.” said Dana Cloud of the Save Kenneth Foster campaign. “But everyone is so happy that Kenneth will be able to touch his wife and daughter and that we have a chance of seeing him free. Anything is possible when you are alive.”

Claire Dube, a close high-school friend of Kenneth’s and an active member of the Save Kenneth Foster Campaign, broke into tears when she heard the news. “We don’t even know what to say. It’s incredible.”

Keith Hampton, Foster’s attorney, also expressed relief and happiness at winning his client’s life. Hampton thanked the activists of the grassroots movement that started in Austin and spread around the world for putting the necessary pressure on the Board and the Governor to win. “Extra-legal means work,” he said.

“Governor Perry once said that there was no hue and cry against the death penalty in Texas,” commented Lily Hughes of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. “Well, here was your hue and cry.”

Foster’s family and other supporters will continue to work to free him from prison. “It seems like ten years on death row under 23-hour lockdown could amount to time served for any crime that Kenneth ever committed,” Cloud said.

Perry’s decision is historic. Not only has the Board of Pardons and Paroles rarely recommended clemency (by one count, 3 times since 1982), but Rick Perry has overseen more executions than any Governor of the State of Texas, including George Bush.

“This case demonstrated to the world just how arbitrary and capricious capital punishment is,” Cloud said. “It gives people pause when someone who killed no one could come this close to being executed.”

“Public sentiment has been turning against capital punishment,” Hughes said. “We’ve seen a lot of states stop executing people. Winning Kenneth’s life might be a real turning point in the history of the death penalty in Texas.”


UPDATE: Board Votes in Kenneth's Favor, All Eyes on Perry

The Board of Pardons and Paroles today voted 6-1 to recommend clemency for Kenneth Foster. It is now up to Governor Perry to make the final decision. Call him and demand that he do the right thing:

Call 800-252-9600 (Texas callers) or 512-463-1782 (Austin and out of state), and send faxes to 512-463-1849.

No News Yet

It is about 10:30 a.m. central time and there is still no word from the Board of Pardons and Paroles or the U.S. Supreme Court. Executions in Texas typically begin at 6 p.m.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Kenneth's Story in the New York Times and London Independent

August 30, 2007

Date With the Executioner for Murder by Someone Else

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 may have been thinking — the night in 1996 when he was 19 and a sidekick pulled the trigger, killing a 25-year-old 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 onetime gang member, aspiring musician and 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 may, or may not, have had reason to anticipate.

The man who pulled the trigger is dead, executed last year. One accomplice is serving life in prison as a result of a plea bargain, and a second is serving life for a separate murder.

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 hold co-conspirators responsible for each other’s criminal acts in a so-called law of parties. But few of those have a death penalty. And no other state executes them 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 victim’s rights advocates who still mourn the slain law student, Michael LaHood Jr.

It has also smudged 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 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’s law of parties under which those conspiring to commit one felony such as 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 do 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 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 Chevy 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. She 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 together with Mr. Brown, who was also convicted and was executed in July 2006. Mr. Steen and Mr. Dillard, facing charges in other cases, were not tried. But Mr. Steen testified he did not believe that Mr. Foster knew 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. Fuller’s lawyer, Mr. Hampton, argued, his client lacked the mindset to be legally culpable for the killing that followed.

Mr. Hampton also contended that Mr. Steen and Mr. Dillard were improperly withheld as crucial witnesses, and that mitigating testimony about Mr. Foster’s upbringing was not presented to the jury.

“I was in jail at the time he got arrested,” said Kenneth Foster Sr., saying 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.”

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Man faces execution for being in car with killer

By Leonard Doyle in Washington

Published: 30 August 2007

A 30-year old man, Kenneth Foster, is set to be executed today for a murder which he not only did not commit, but which the authorities in Texas accept was carried out by another man in 1996.

The trial judge, the prosecutor, and the jury that sentenced Mr Foster to die admit that he did not murder the victim Michael LaHood. But, under a controversial "law of parties", in Texas an associate of a perpetrator can be found co-responsible in a capital case. The law imposes the death penalty on anybody involved in a crime where a murder occurred.

This is how Foster, a black man out on a crime spree with some friends, came to be convicted of murdering Mr LaHood, a white man and the son of a prominent lawyer . The killer, Mauriceo Brown, was executed last year.

Foster has been politically active on death row. He has organised fellow prisoners, becoming a leader in the anti-death penalty movement in Texas and starting a non-violent movement called Drive, to campaign over conditions on death row. Unlike most other inmates he had several years of college education before jail.

On the night of the murder, Foster and several friends had been driving around drinking and committing robberies. On the way home, Brown left the car to talk to a woman. He then got into an altercation with Mr LaHood and shot him dead in the driveway of his house in San Antonio.

The murder occurred as Foster was sitting in a car some 30 metres away with three other passengers – but prosecutors said there was a conspiracy to commit the crime and therefore he deserved a death sentence. Since Foster's original trial, the other passengers – none of whom was tried under the law of parties – have testified that Foster had no idea a shooting was going to take place.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied Foster's final appeal on Tuesday and his last recourse is a pardon from Texas Governor Rick Perry. This seems unlikely, as five of the seven Board of Pardons members must recommend clemency first. Last week Texas executed its 400th prisoner since it resumed capital punishment in 1982.

Recently a friend of the victim has described the pending execution as vengeance and called for it to be halted. The LaHood family has so far not offered support to Foster's case. LaHood's mother said she supported the execution of the actual killer.