AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA
August 24, 2007
Foster Convicted For a Murder He Did Not Commit or Predict; Human Rights Organization Calls on Texas Board of Pardons, Gov. Perry to Grant Clemency
(Washington, D.C.) -- Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) today condemned the scheduled August 30 execution of Kenneth Foster, who was convicted of a murder he did not commit and has consistently denied knowing would occur. The human rights organization has mobilized its international membership to urge the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Rick Perry to grant clemency.
Foster was sentenced to death in 1997 for the murder of Michael LaHood under Texas' controversial "law of parties." This law abolishes the distinction between principal actor and accomplice in a crime and allows both to be held equally culpable.
"This is a new low for Texas," said Larry Cox, executive director of AIUSA. "Texas has the most far-reaching 'law of parties' in this country, further marking it as the death penalty capital of the United States. 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."
In the early hours of August 15th, 1996, Mauriceo Brown, DeWayne Dillard, Julius Steen and Kenneth Foster stopped outside the house of Michael LaHood. Brown got out of the car, robbed LaHood, and then shot him. To convict Kenneth Foster of capital murder under the law of parties, the prosecution had to prove that there was a conspiracy between him and Brown to rob LaHood, and that Foster should have anticipated that murder might have occurred during the robbery. At the trial Brown testified that there had been no discussion of robbing LaHood before he got out of the car.
Dillard testified at a state appeal that after the shot was heard, Foster had appeared surprised and panicked. Steen signed an affidavit in 2003 stating that, "There was no agreement that I am aware of for Brown to commit a robbery at the LaHood residence. I do not believe that Foster and Brown ever agreed to commit a robbery. I don't think that Foster thought that Brown was going to commit a robbery."
Brown was executed on July 19, 2006. Neither Steen nor Dillard, the two other accomplices, was prosecuted for LaHood's murder. Yet, as the evidence stands today, their and Foster's culpability in the crime appears to be the same.
Contact: Wende Gozan at 212/633-4247 or Brian Evans at 202/544-0200 x496