By Heber Taylor
The Daily News
Published August 10, 2007In a democracy, people have a collective responsibility to make sure the laws they create work and don’t result in miscarriages of justice.
That is why you should care about Kenneth Foster Jr., who is scheduled to be executed Aug. 30.
Foster was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to die, although he did not kill anyone or conspire to kill anyone.
Foster is guilty of making some awful decisions. He also is guilty of armed robbery. He deserves to be in prison.
But he does not deserve to die.
Foster is on death row because of a poor reading of the Law of Parties. The law was intended to hold people responsible for conspiracies. It’s a good concept, but a flawed law.
If you are a getaway driver and help plan a robbery, you’re responsible for anything that happens as a result of the robbery. If the people who point guns at the clerk and demand the money start shooting, the getaway driver is on the hook for that. That’s as it should be.
But, as a federal judge pointed out, Foster did not kill or conspire to kill Michael LaHood in San Antonio in 1996.
Instead, when he was 19, Foster drove three friends around in a car that had been rented by his grandfather. One of those friends, Mauriceo Brown, turned out to be a murderer.
With Foster driving, the young men rode around, smoked marijuana and committed two armed robberies.
Had one of the robbery victims been shot, you could make a better case for applying the Law of Parties. But, according to testimony from two of the men involved, Dewayne Dillard and Julius Steen, Foster repeatedly pleaded that he needed to return the car home.
It’s hard to see him conspiring to kill Michael LaHood. In fact, he had no idea who LaHood was when Brown got out of the car and shot him.
Brown was executed last year.
Steen got 35 years to life. Dillard got life. What’s the rationale to sentence Foster to death when the other two in the car got prison terms?
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the Eighth Amendment does not allow the death penalty for “a minor participant in a felony and does not kill, attempt to kill or intend to kill.”
U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson of San Antonio tossed out the death sentence. But the appellate court in New Orleans overturned his ruling.
If people in Texas let Foster die, we’ll be putting our approval on the idea that it’s OK to use a law designed to punish conspirators even in cases where there’s no conspiracy. And we’ll be saying we’ll stretch the law in cases where we’re mad enough against one criminal but we won’t stretch the law in cases where we’re not that mad at his two riding buddies.
We hope an awful lot of Texans have the integrity not to sign off on that farce.
Gov. Rick Perry could and should put a stop to this with the recommendation of a commuted sentence from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.
We urge you to write the board and the governor. Tell them Foster should pay for his crimes in prison. But he shouldn’t be executed.
+++ Addresses to write: Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles Executive Clemency Section 8610 Shoal Creek Blvd. Austin, Texas 78757
Gov. Rick Perry Office of the Governor P.O. Box 12428 Austin, Texas 78711
Copyright © 2007 The Galveston County Daily News