Kenneth Foster Update

As I mentioned when I first posted about the skewed fate of Kenneth Foster, the man who is condemned to die though it is widely known he was not the actual murderer, I have absolutely no intentions of letting this go.  In fact you can probably expect at least one post a day on the subject until he has a stay pardoned, or he is put to death.

This whole thing is such a goddamn mess, and it irks.  Here’s the problem with those of us who are so vehemently against the Death Penalty; you have to pick your battles.  As I had to explain in a personal conversation yesterday, while I believe the Death Penalty should not be applied to anyone, it would be foolish to try and make issue with every single case.  Most people, when you start listing all the things they’ve done, you are essentially turning into your own worst enemy in the issue.  Such is the case with Foster.

In the past, I’ve taken a closer look at three men who have been put on Death Row, two of them have been executed and one has had his execution stayed while the case is reexamined.  In the first case I looked at, Stan “Tookie” Williams, he was a great case to be made because while he did much that was heinous in his pre-Death Row life, following his incarceration Stan underwent a significant transformation, and spent much of his time on Death Row working incredibly hard to counteract the evil he did while still free.  He wrote a series of childrens books that encouraged children to shun the gangster lifestyle, and he recorded messasges to gang members and used community organizers to play those for bloods and crips in some of the most gang ridden areas of LA.  His efforts won him multiple nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize, and in a way, Williams was the model of reform that many of us who oppose the Death Penalty look to for hope in a better penal system that does away with the Death penalty.

Phil Workman was another good case to make considering the circumstances of his crime, but even more so because of the oddity of his last meal request.  Phil requested a vegetarian pizza, and instead of eating it himself he wanted it to be delivered to a homeless person.  Phil himself was homeless when he committed his crime.  In a curious turn of events, after his death dozens to hundreds of pizzas were delivered to homeless shelters in Tennessee on Phil’s behalf.

Then there was Troy Davis, the one man who has since had his execution stayed.  What made Davis’ case so good was simple, since his trial and conviction, nearly all the evidence against him, what little there was in the first place, fell apart.  Nearly all of the witnesses recanted their testimony, and in fact, most began pointing the finger to another party completely. There were stories of police coercion as well as a lack of physical circumstantial evidence to secure Davis’ guilt.  As of the last time I checked in, it looked very likely that Davis simply wasn’t the right man.

The reason why I’m bringing this to your attention is for honesty’s sake.  I want you to understand the methodology of the past, so that when we speak of this, we can speak of this truthfully and with respect.  Kenneth Foster was no angel, and while Michael Lahood’s very close friend Sean-Paul (of the Agonist.org) does not believe Kenneth Foster should be executed, another of Lahood’s close friends, affectionately referred to as “D-Day”, feels differently.

Kenneth Foster, rightfully, belongs in jail for a very long time.  This cannot be argued, but “Captain” Ed, with whom I disagree with on nearly every single thing, seems to get this one right:

No one doubts that Foster should be in prison for a very long time. Participating in two armed robberies should have landed him there for decades. Moreover, since his group committed a murder, he bears responsibility for that crime as well. But should the punishment for the non-shooter be the same as for the shooter?

Let’s take a look at another famous case of armed robbery and murder. Kathleen Soliah participated in an armed robbery as a member of the SLA, a notoriously violent group. In the course of the robbery, someone shot and killed a bank employee. Soliah went on the run, and didn’t get caught until 23 years had passed. She got six years for her participation in the murder of Myrna Opsahl, a ridiculously short sentence but the longest possible under the plea deal she made.

This is what bothers me about the death penalty. Its application is inconsistent, and it has the potential for abuse, which this case arguably demonstrates. Even if I supported the death penalty — which at one point I did — applying it to a known non-shooter would seem a miscarriage. Texas Governor Rick Perry should think about breaking his streak of non-intervention in this case.

Here’s how I see this, we have a chance to get this right, reader Hooman, in comments provides for us a great way of expressing and applying leverage on the Texas State Government over the internet and I want to display it here now. By clicking here, you can send the Legislature and Governor Perry an email requesting they stop Foster’s execution, and you can check out (what I assume to be) Hooman’s blog which I’m sure will continue to have pertinant information in Foster’s case as it continues to develop.

I encourage everyone who reads this blog to act now.  We have eleven days until Perry makes his final decision on Foster’s fate, and thirteen days until there will no longer be time to act.  There’s a lot of work to be done, and very little time to do it.

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