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?

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Hooman Hedayati

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