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There are certainly many lessons to learn from the Kenneth Foster victory. The victory was the result of the entire Texas anti-death penalty movement working together, including every anti-death penalty organization in Texas, as well as Kenneth's lawyers and family members and some long-time supporters of Kenneth from other U.S. states and around the world.
One important lesson is that organizing works. In particular, affecting public opinion through grassroots organizing works. Pressuring elected officials works. Texas is not a lost cause, as some people outside Texas sometimes seem to think. Here in Texas, we have known for some time that we are making progress. But, we also know that the national anti-death penalty movement should be investing more time and money in Texas. Investing more financial and other resources into the Texas anti-death penalty effort would pay off in more of the type of successes that we saw with the Save Kenneth Foster Campaign.
The Texas anti-death penalty movement would like to ask for more help from national funders and organizations. Some people do understand that Texas is where a lot of effort should be expended. For instance, we are thrilled that the Journey of Hope is coming back to Texas this fall. But, we need more resources and more help. With increased attention to Texas, we will be able to win more often and we will be able to significantly reduce popular support in Texas for the death penalty and greatly reduce the number of executions that take place here.
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.