Monday, August 20, 2007

Fuck Texas! Free Kenneth Foster!

Texas is a huge state that displays the best and worst of the American dream. Any young person with drive and ambition can make a name in Texas. You can be successful, rich beyond your wildest beliefs. You can drive big cars and live in big houses.

Unfortunately, Texas is still a state that can break your will, steal your soul, and, because of its history of vigilante justice and bad race relations, steal your life. This has happened before. As I have noted on this blog before, Shaka Sankofa was murdered by then-governor George W. Bush (who, btw, oversaw 152 executions. To put that in perspective, 398 people have been killed* in Texas since the reinstatement of the Death Penalty in 1974. That's a little more than one out of every three.) for a crime that no one can definitely proved that he committed. In fact, most information available suggested that he was actually innocent. In any other state, the court trial that he went through would have been considered unconstitutional. Period. Incompetent lawyers, unheard evidence, a complete lack of physical evidence, and the only thing that convicted him was one person who, in no way, could have led jurors to believe beyond a reasonable doubt that Sankofa committed the crime. How does this sound like a trial in concordance with the 6th Amendment of the Bill of Rights? No, of course it doesn't. Unfortunately, this is common occurrence in Texas.

This common occurrence is showing itself again. Kenneth Foster, a 30-year-old man from San Antonio, is on Death Row because of an antiquated Texas law referred to as the "Law of Parties." The Law of Parties is:

Chapter 7.02 of the TX Penal Code [which] says a person can be criminally responsible for another’s actions if that person acts with "the intent to promote or assist the commission of the offense" and "solicits, encourages, directs, aids, or attempts to aid the other person to commit the offense, whether the defendant actually caused the death of the deceased or did not actually cause the death of the deceased but intended to kill the deceased or another or anticipated that a human life would be taken". Furthermore, "If, in the attempt to carry out a conspiracy to commit one felony, another felony is committed by one of the conspirators, all conspirators are guilty of the felony actually committed."
If you cannot understand the legalese, this law states that even if you are not involved with the felony, you can be convicted at the same level as the person who was. As you can figure by the fact that Foster is on Death Row, he received the same sentence as the man who actually committed the murder, Maurecio Brown, even though EVERYONE AGREES that he was nowhere NEAR the scene of the crime NOR involved in the crime itself. While I will not go to say that this man is a saint because he is not, he is not a man who should be murdered by the state of Texas. Foster was a petty robber. He has already served his time in jail as he has been there for ten years. But, I'm getting away from my point. Does the idea of being sent to death for a murder you didn't know was going to happen and, more importantly, didn't commit sound fair to you? No, I didn't think so. Unfortunately, Foster is most likely not going to be the last person who will be murdered under this statute. It is approximated that about 80 people are sitting on Death Row because of this law.

As much as this case has shocked me, I wanted to find out some more information about this case to get all of the facts straight. Seeing as the article I read at The Guardian came out today, I figured that there had to be some more information about it and at least some mainstream coverage. I went to Google News and did a search to only find 48 articles. 48!+ This man is about to die under a pointless law, and only 48 people could summon the strength to write something about it. But, this is not the dismaying part; that is the fact that Texas Governor Rick Perry, who has yet to grant clemency and is now the biggest murderer in the history of the reinstated death penalty as he has killed 158 people, is the person who will decide whether Foster lives or dies. Unfortunately, I think I already know his answer. The predicted answer tells me that Foster is scheduled to be murdered on the 30th of this month, ten days from now.

Cases like this drive me up the wall. I am all for appropriate punishment when it is clear that the person has committed the crime. I still do not support the death penalty as I feel that it is inhuman and prohibitively expensive. I also feel that it is a greater punishment to live with yourself and the fact that you have murdered someone instead of being given the out of being killed by the state after only a few years.

Even if you believe in the death penalty, it has to be applied correctly; the evidence has to show that this person is the one who knowingly and willingly killed another. Sankofa's case did not show this. Foster's case has shown that he wasn't even involved. And, honestly, I could talk about this even further because there is also a racial component involved in this case (LaHood: rich and white. Foster: poor and black). I will leave that alone because the factual aspects of this case are more than offensive enough without race considerations.

In the end, I know that all I can do is bring this case to the public and hope that people in Texas and America will take a stand against innocent people being murdered by the state. If you want to do something, go here. The link is to the site to Free Kenneth Foster. It has a cornucopia of information on the topic. Here is some more information. The Free Kenneth site allows you to send a letter to the legislators, governor, and board of pardons in Texas, which I have done.

While we might not be able to sway Perry, it is certainly worth a try, especially in such a fucked up situation. I also hope that this attention from people in the blogging world and the liberal activist sphere will bring the mainstream around to pay attention to such a hugely important case that impacts so many Americans. I know that it doesn't involve a pretty white girl, but freedoms are freedoms and they must be defended by all costs.

*I use the term killed in a rhetorical manner and as an expression of personal belief. I do believe that the death penalty is the killing of another person. I do not attempt to sympathize with people who believe in the death penalty. It is murder in my eyes. And, no, we are never going to agree on this one. Ever.

+It was 48 when I searched at like Midnight on Monday 8/20/2007. The numbers might have increased since my search. There is also a fair amount of webspace dedicated to this case, but still not as much as it deserves.