August 30, 2007
Movement to Save Kenneth Foster Wins Historic Victory
Family members and supporters of Kenneth Foster, Jr. are jubilant in the reaction to Texas Governor Rick Perry’s announcement today that he would commute the death sentence of Kenneth Foster, who was convicted under the controversial “Law of Parties” for a 1996 murder in which he had no actual involvement. The Board of Pardons and Paroles had recommended clemency by a vote of 6-1. Foster’s execution had been scheduled for tonight.
In a statement announcing the commutation, Perry said, “I am concerned about Texas law that allowed capital murder defendants to be tried simultaneously and it is an issue I think the Legislature should examine.”
Reaction among Foster’s family and friends included both joy and disbelief. “We felt a bit of disbelief because Perry’s decision was so unprecedented.” said Dana Cloud of the Save Kenneth Foster campaign. “But everyone is so happy that Kenneth will be able to touch his wife and daughter and that we have a chance of seeing him free. Anything is possible when you are alive.”
Claire Dube, a close high-school friend of Kenneth’s and an active member of the Save Kenneth Foster Campaign, broke into tears when she heard the news. “We don’t even know what to say. It’s incredible.”
Keith Hampton, Foster’s attorney, also expressed relief and happiness at winning his client’s life. Hampton thanked the activists of the grassroots movement that started in Austin and spread around the world for putting the necessary pressure on the Board and the Governor to win. “Extra-legal means work,” he said.
“Governor Perry once said that there was no hue and cry against the death penalty in Texas,” commented Lily Hughes of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. “Well, here was your hue and cry.”
Foster’s family and other supporters will continue to work to free him from prison. “It seems like ten years on death row under 23-hour lockdown could amount to time served for any crime that Kenneth ever committed,” Cloud said.
Perry’s decision is historic. Not only has the Board of Pardons and Paroles rarely recommended clemency (by one count, 3 times since 1982), but Rick Perry has overseen more executions than any Governor of the State of Texas, including George Bush.
“This case demonstrated to the world just how arbitrary and capricious capital punishment is,” Cloud said. “It gives people pause when someone who killed no one could come this close to being executed.”
“Public sentiment has been turning against capital punishment,” Hughes said. “We’ve seen a lot of states stop executing people. Winning Kenneth’s life might be a real turning point in the history of the death penalty in Texas.”