Friday, August 31, 2007

Florida Doctors Wear "Moon Suits" to Hide Participation in Lethal Injections

In Florida, doctors hired to monitor and participate in lethal injection executions wear purple "moon suits" and goggles to conceal their identities from witnesses and circumvent an American Medical Association (AMA) code that forbids participation in executions, according to the Associated Press.

Though Florida and other states say the participation of medical personnel ensures "a dignified and humane death" for those facing execution, the AMA, the American Nurses Association, the American Society of Anesthesiologists, and the Florida Medical Association all disagree. "We are a profession dedicated to healing. Participation in an execution is an image of a physician with a dark hood. . . . It is part of the role of a physician, helping people, preserving life and maintaining the trust and respect of the people we serve. We do not feel killing people is appropriate in that context," said Dr. Mark Levine, chairman of the AMA's Council of Ethical and Judicial Affairs. He added that doctors must decide whether they are "an instrument of the state or a member of a profession dedicated to preserving and protecting life. You can't be both."The role of medical personnel in executions is a key concern for states reworking lethal injection protocols after existing procedures were challenged as violating the Constitution's ban on "cruel and unusual punishment."

A growing number of states have proposed lethal injection procedures that would allow medical personnel to perform a variety of tasks, including the insertion of intravenous tubes, performing "cut down" procedures to locate useable veins, observing heart monitors, tracking an inmate's consciousness, purchasing and maintaining drugs used in the lethal cocktail, and pronouncing death. All of these tasks present tough questions for medical associations, which hold the power to revoke memberships for ethics code violations. With that in mind, a number of states are taking steps to protect the identities of medical professionals who agree to participate in executions. For example, in Missouri, a new law allows executioners to sue anyone who discloses their identity, legislation authored after a St. Louis paper revealed the name of a doctor who had participated in dozens of executions. In Alabama and Ohio, a curtain is drawn after the execution so doctors examining the inmate are not seen by witnesses. Florida is the only state to require that medical personnel wear a moon suit similar to those worn by biohazard teams.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist, the son of a physician, admits that finding doctors willing to assist in lethal injections is difficult. When asked about the ethical dilemma faced by physicians, he said, "I don't know. It's pretty hard . . . the oath is taken to save life, of course."(Associated Press, August 26, 2007).

Source : Death Penalty Information Center

Board's ruling not seen as shift in favor of killers

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles' role in saving a San Antonio killer from execution Thursday may have delighted death penalty opponents, but legal experts said the panel's recommendation of mercy does not portend a policy of sympathy for capital killers.

The board's 6-1 recommendation that Kenneth Foster's death sentence be commuted to life in prison was only the fifth time in more than a dozen years that the board has acted in favor of a killer.

Thursday's action also marked the fourth time in that period in which a governor accepted the board's recommendation of a life sentence.

Gov. Rick Perry made the move about seven hours before Foster's scheduled execution and explained that his concern centered on the fact that Foster, who drove the getaway car, and the gunman were tried together.

While Texas' position as the nation's busiest death penalty state remains secure, Thursdays action may lead to greater discretion in the filing of capital cases against those other than the actual killers.

"With the death penalty under tighter scrutiny if someone isn't the actual shooter, it's going to be harder to get the death sentence," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the non-partisan Death Penalty Information Center.

Perry's commutation of Foster's death sentence "was very unexpected," said Rob Owen, a clinical professor at the University of Texas School of Law.

"This decision by the governor today, which I applaud, can be justified in that Mr. Foster did not anticipate that a killing would take place," Owen said. "That will serve to distinguish this case from any other case."

But it would be "over interpreting the case" to conclude that the parole board has become more receptive to killer's appeals, said David Dow, a University of Houston law professor also with the Texas Innocence Network.

"I think Gov. Perry's statement illuminates the highly unusual nature of the board's action in this case," Dow said, alluding to the governor's expressed concern about the pair being tried together.
The lesson to be drawn from the board's action, Dow said, is that appellate attorneys should submit clemency petitions to the pardons board more often. He said they are not filed in 75 percent of capital cases in Texas because "attorneys don't get paid for doing it."

Source: Houston Chronicle

Petition to abolish the death penalty

We the people, revoke the governments power to kill people in the name of justice.

The death penalty does not bring closure for the victims' families. Instead it creates more victims.The death penalty is a violation of human rights. It is torture that inflicts unbearable emotional pain and suffering on the condemned person and those that love them.

The emotional pain and suffering, continues for the life of the condemned family.

All governments currently engaging in any punishment that causes death are committing human rights violations.

By signing this petition, I recognize any government currently engaging in any punishment that causes death, in violation of Human Rights.

Click here to sign the petition

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Perry Commutes Death Sentence

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry today commuted the death sentence of Kenneth Eugene Foster of San Antonio to life imprisonment after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (TBPP) recommended such action.

On May 6, 1997, Foster was sentenced to death for his role in the 1996 capital murder of Michael LaHood. Foster sought to have his death sentence commuted to a life sentence arguing that he did not shoot the victim, but merely drove the car in which that the actual killer was riding. In addition, Foster was tried along side the actual killer, Maurecio Brown, and the jury that convicted Foster also considered punishment for both him and his co-defendant in the same proceeding.

"After carefully considering the facts of this case, along with the recommendations from the Board of Pardons and Paroles, I believe the right and just decision is to commute Foster's sentence from the death penalty to life imprisonment," Gov. Perry said. "I am concerned about Texas law that allows capital murder defendants to be tried simultaneously, and it is an issue I think the legislature should examine."

The TBPP voted 6-1 to recommend commutation, and the governor signed the commutation papers Thursday morning.

The governor's action means Foster's sentence will be commuted to life imprisonment as soon as the Texas Department of Criminal Justice can process this change.

http://www.governor.state.tx.us/divisions/press/pressreleases/PressRelease.2007-08-30.0856

Gov. Perry commutes death row inmate's sentence

AUSTIN -- Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday commuted death row inmate Kenneth Foster’s sentence to life, following a 6-1 recommendation by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

“After carefully considering the facts of this case, along with the recommendations from the Board of Pardons and Paroles, I believe the right and just decision is to commute Foster’s sentence from the death penalty to life imprisonment,” Gov. Perry said. “I am concerned about Texas law that allows capital murder defendants to be tried simultaneously, and it is an issue I think the legislature should examine.”

Mr. Foster was the getaway driver in a 1996 armed robbery spree that ended in the murder of a 25-year-old San Antonio man. He contends he had no knowledge a murder was going to occur, and he was not the trigger man. But he was convicted, in the same courtroom as the shooter, under the state’s “law of parties,” which authorizes capital punishment for accomplices who either intended to kill or "should have anticipated" a murder.

Mr. Foster is one of an estimated 80 Texas death row inmates convicted under the law; about 20 have already been put to death. Most states have such laws for many types of crimes, but Texas is the only state to apply it broadly to capital cases. While death penalty opponents decry its use, prosecutors argue all those responsible for heinous crimes must be held accountable.

Mr. Foster acknowledges he was up for getting high and robbing a few people on that night 11 years ago. But he was in a car with two other men nearly 90 feet away when one of his partners shot and killed Michael LaHood in what jurors determined was a botched robbery.

The men in the car, including Mr. Foster, have testified that they thought they were done robbing for the night and that there was no plan to stick up - and certainly not to murder - Mr. LaHood. The shooter, Mauriceo Brown, was executed last year.

Mr. Foster's attorney believes his client's fate was sealed during his joint trial with Mr. Brown, when one of his robbing partners testified that "it was kind of like, I guess, understood, what was probably fixing to go down" when Mr. Brown got out of the car.

It was enough for jurors - and later, the appeals court - to support a capital murder charge for Mr. Foster on the basis of conspiracy: They believed Mr. Foster, as the getaway driver on two previous robberies, either knew what was about to occur or should have anticipated it.

But Mr. Foster's attorney never got the chance to cross-examine the two other partners, who both received life sentences. One has since given a sworn statement to Mr. Hampton saying he didn't understand Mr. Brown's intent was to rob Mr. LaHood until Mr. Brown had already made his way up the driveway. The other has testified that Mr. Foster asked the men all night to quit and worried about returning the car to his grandfather.

In recent weeks, Mr. Foster’s case has brought waves of attention, from rallies across the state to public statements from former President Jimmy Carter, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and actress Susan Sarandon.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest criminal court, upheld Mr. Foster's sentence for a final time this month.

Source : DallasNews.com

Board recommends condemned man be spared

AUSTIN -- The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended this morning that Gov. Rick Perry commute death row inmate Kenneth Foster’s sentence to life – leaving the governor just 7 hours to determine Mr. Foster’s fate.

“I’m trying to get him to make the decision just as fast as possible,” Keith Hampton, Mr. Foster’s attorney, said from the governor’s office. “I’m meeting with attorneys here to tell them the ups and downs and find out where they’re at.”

The execution by lethal injection is scheduled for 6 p.m. The governor’s office had no immediate comment the board’s vote. Mr. Perry does not have to follow the board’s recommendation, and he has rarely intervened in death penalty cases as governor.

Mr. Foster was the getaway driver in a 1996 armed robbery spree that ended in the murder of a 25-year-old San Antonio man. He contends he had no knowledge a murder was going to occur, and he was not the trigger man. But he was convicted under the state’s “law of parties,” which authorizes capital punishment for accomplices who either intended to kill or "should have anticipated" a murder.

Mr. Foster is one of an estimated 80 Texas death row inmates convicted under the law; about 20 have already been put to death. Most states have such laws for many types of crimes, but Texas is the only state to apply it broadly to capital cases. While death penalty opponents decry its use, prosecutors argue all those responsible for heinous crimes must be held accountable.

Mr. Foster acknowledges he was up for getting high and robbing a few people on that night 11 years ago. But he was in a car with two other men nearly 90 feet away when one of his partners shot and killed Michael LaHood in what jurors determined was a botched robbery.

The men in the car, including Mr. Foster, have testified that they thought they were done robbing for the night and that there was no plan to stick up - and certainly not to murder - Mr. LaHood. The shooter, Mauriceo Brown, was executed last year.

Mr. Foster's attorney believes his client's fate was sealed during his joint trial with Mr. Brown, when one of his robbing partners testified that "it was kind of like, I guess, understood, what was probably fixing to go down" when Mr. Brown got out of the car.

It was enough for jurors - and later, the appeals court - to support a capital murder charge for Mr. Foster on the basis of conspiracy: They believed Mr. Foster, as the getaway driver on two previous robberies, either knew what was about to occur or should have anticipated it.

But Mr. Foster's attorney never got the chance to cross-examine the two other partners, who both received life sentences. One has since said in a sworn statement that he didn't understand Mr. Brown's intent was to rob the victim until Mr. Brown had already made his way up the driveway. The other has testified that Mr. Foster asked the men all night to quit and worried about returning the car to his grandfather.

In recent weeks, Mr. Foster’s case has brought waves of attention, from rallies across the state to public statements from former President Jimmy Carter, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and actress Susan Sarandon.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest criminal court, upheld Mr. Foster's sentence for a final time this month. If Mr. Foster is executed, it will be the third in Texas this week, and the 24th this year.

Source : DallasNews.com

Not the Killer, but Still Facing a Date With the Executioner

HOUSTON, Aug. 29 — Kenneth Foster has a date on Thursday with the executioner’s needle. Not for killing anyone himself, but for what he was doing — and might have been thinking — the night in 1996 when he was 19 and a sidekick gunned down a San Antonio law student.

Ensnared in a Texas law that makes accomplices subject to the death penalty, Mr. Foster, 30, is to become the third death row inmate this week, and the 403rd since capital punishment resumed in Texas in 1982, to give his life for a life taken.

But unlike most others condemned to death in this state, Mr. Foster, a former gang member and aspiring musician and now a prison poet from San Antonio, is not a murderer in the usual sense. He was convicted and sentenced to die for abetting a killing — 80 feet away — that he might, or might not, have had reason to anticipate.

The gunman is dead, executed last year. Two accomplices are serving life terms.
Now, failing a last-minute reprieve, Mr. Foster, the group’s driver in a robbery spree — who argues that he never was party to the murder — is facing lethal injection. His guilt, affirmed so far in every appeal, including five turned away by the United States Supreme Court, hinges in large part on difficult questions of awareness and intention.

Other states also hold co-conspirators responsible for one another’s criminal acts in a so-called law of parties. But few of those states have a death penalty. And no other state executes anybody on the scale of Texas.

Click here to read this feature in full.

Source : The New York Times

Report on status of Foster case

The update on Kenneth Foster is that the Board of Pardons and Paroles was working on John Amador's case all afternoon and didn't get to Kenneth's case. Johnny was just executed in Huntsville. The Foster family was with the Amador family in Huntsville for the execution. Both families are from San Antonio and Johnny and Kenneth both began a hunger strike last week. The Fosters had an eight hour visit with Kenneth today. Tomorrow they will have 4 hours.
So tomorrow the Board will rule on Kenneth's case. I am not holding my breath for them to do the right thing as they almost never do. But I still think we should call them all morning until they rule. The number to call is:

Board-- 1-512-406-5852
Gov-- 1-512-463-2000

It is so hard to have execution after execution in Texas while we know that this damn system will ultimately be done away with. But how many people do we have to lose to this racist assembly line to death sponsored by the state of Texas? I encourage everyone to turn their anger and energy at this machinery of death toward building the movement for abolition. We can't build a movement for all of the 400 people on death row in Texas, so we must build a movement to stop the whole disgusting tool of the rich rulers of this state.

Gloria Rubac

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Another stain on justice, Texas style

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Gov. Rick Perry can spare a life, uphold justice and bring a semblance of honor to Texas this week, if only he will seize the opportunity.

Perry has the power to stop the execution of death row inmate Kenneth Foster, scheduled to die Thursday for a crime everyone acknowledges that he did not commit. The state's Board of Pardons and Paroles also can halt the execution.

Foster, 30, is not the sweetheart anti-death penalty activists insist he is. He was a thug, armed robber and drug dealer in San Antonio. But he did not commit the murder that put him on death row.

Foster was driving the car with three criminal friends on a robbery spree the night Michael LaHood, 25, was shot and killed in 1996. One of Foster's passengers, Mauriceo Brown, shot LaHood in the face during an attempted robbery. Brown was executed for that crime last year.
Foster was convicted under Texas' Law of Parties statute that considers those who had a major role in a capital crime as guilty as the actual killer. Texas is the only state that applies the Law of Parties to capital crimes, and an estimated 80 death row inmates have been condemned to die under that statute.

Foster and the others in the car with him say Foster had no idea Brown would kill LaHood. But prosecutors and a jury said Foster should have known that Brown intended to shoot LaHood and should have prevented it.

The inescapable problem with the Law of Parties is that a jury has to go back in time and read the defendant's mind, guess at his intention. The sentence is based on what the jury believed Foster was thinking when the crime occurred. No one's life should hinge on guesswork by jurors.

A federal district judge overturned the death sentence in 2005 after determining that Foster didn't play a major role in the conspiracy to rob LaHood. But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court and reinstated the death sentence in 2006. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Foster's appeal.

So now it's up to Perry or the Board of Pardons and Paroles to do the right thing and spare Foster's life by granting him a reprieve. It's the only just thing to do. If the governor or parole board allows this execution, Texas will be further stained by injustice.

Since the death penalty was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1976, Texas has executed 400 people, far more than any other state. That's more than a third of all the 1,100 executions in the United States in that same period.

Everyone can sympathize with LaHood's family and share their grief at their loss. But granting Foster a reprieve in no way endangers this state's embrace of the death penalty or threatens to turn a cold-blooded killer loose on the streets.

It only assures that one man is not put to death for a crime committed by someone else. It's simple justice.

Source: Austin-American Statesman (from Save Kenneth Foster Blog)

Kenneth Foster Execution a 'New Low for Texas' and a 'Shocking Perversion of the Law,' Says Amnesty International

(Washington, D.C.) -- Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) today condemned the scheduled August 30 execution of Kenneth Foster, who was convicted of a murder he did not commit and has consistently denied knowing would occur. The human rights organization has mobilized its international membership to urge the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Rick Perry to grant clemency.

Foster was sentenced to death in 1997 for the murder of Michael LaHood under Texas' controversial "law of parties." This law abolishes the distinction between principal actor and accomplice in a crime and allows both to be held equally culpable.

"This is a new low for Texas," said Larry Cox, executive director of AIUSA. "Texas has the most far-reaching 'law of parties' in this country, further marking it as the death penalty capital of the United States. In essence, Kenneth Foster has been sentenced to death for leaving his crystal ball at home. There is no concrete evidence demonstrating that he could know a murder would be committed. Allowing his life to be taken is a shocking perversion of the law."

Source : Amnesty International USA

Texas: former high school honors student executed

HUNTSVILLE, Texas – A former high school honors student convicted of killing one of four people gunned down at an East Texas bar 13 years ago was executed late Tuesday night.
DaRoyce Mosley, 32, was the 22nd inmate executed in Texas this year.

Mr. Mosley didn't deny walking into the Kilgore bar intending to rob the place, but insisted his uncle who accompanied him was responsible for the slayings 13 years ago. The uncle, Ray Don Mosley, 44, took a plea bargain and is serving life in prison.

Mr. Mosley's execution was delayed for several hours while the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed his request for a stay. The court rejected the request about 10:30 p.m.

Source: The Associated Press

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Executing this man is bloodlust, not justice

You might have missed the story. After all, the football season is starting, and we had all the excitement of a tax-free weekend.

But Texas is about to execute an innocent man, that is, a man who killed no one, who did not want to kill anyone, who did not help kill anyone.

On these points, there is unanimous agreement between all the parties involved. How could this happen in Texas?

Kenneth Foster is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection Thursday for a murder committed by Mauriceo Brown, a friend of Foster who was executed for murder last year.

The incident in question is the murder of Michael LaHood. In an altercation, Brown pulled a gun and shot LaHood. Brown testified that LaHood had drawn a gun on him first. Whatever happened, it is undisputed that Foster sat in the car 80 feet away from the shooting. There is no evidence that Foster had felonious intent. When he heard the shot, he started to drive off before Brown got back in the car, a fact kept from the jury.

Part of what got Foster charged with capital murder is a legal concept known as "the law of parties." In Texas, a person is responsible for the criminal conduct of another if he intentionally assists the other in committing a crime. If a second crime is committed, and it can be anticipated, he can be held criminally responsible for that crime, as well.

Problematic law

Nearly thirty years ago, I was appointed to represent a capital murder defendant in Brazos County where the "law of parties" was involved. In that case, my client agreed with another person to do physical harm to the victim and the victim died as a result. Even though there was no direct evidence that my client intended the death of the victim, his conduct fit clearly within the "law of parties."

This is not the case with Kenneth Foster. Foster was merely present in the vicinity of the murder, not a participant in it in any way except that he was driving the car in which the killer, Brown, left the scene.

It should surprise no one who keeps up with such cases that Foster is a black man accused of killing a white man, a factor in many capital murder cases. Michael LaHood was the son of a well-known attorney in San Antonio. The LaHood family, through the media, made it known it wanted the guilty parties executed. The prosecuting attorney withheld evidence that would have supported Brown's testimony that LaHood was armed and that Brown shot him in self-defense. Foster was tried with Brown, a decision by the judge and prosecutor that prejudiced Foster's chance to receive a fair trial. Foster's court-appointed attorney made no inquiries into Foster's background. Had he done so, he would have found many factors that would have mitigated against sentencing him to death by lethal injection.

Proponents of capital punishment argue that we need this punishment for those who are the worst of the worse; for those who commit murder under the most cold and heinous circumstances; for the irretrievably lost among us. None of these conditions comes close to describing Kenneth Foster.

This case is not about revenge against Kenneth Foster because Foster didn't kill Michael LaHood, nor did he even want to kill him. It is about blood lust. Whether the proponents of capital punishment take refuge in Scripture or their general outrage at crime, their hands will be covered with the blood of Kenneth Foster if this travesty of justice is not stopped.

-- Lamar Hankins is a San Marcos attorney.

Suspend the United States' and Japan's Observers Status at the European Council

We, the undersigned, as citizens of the world opposed to the death penalty, demand that the United States and Japan be suspended as observers at the European Council.

On August 22, 2007, Texas carried out its 400th execution in 25 years and Japan carried out 3 executions on the same day. While the European Union has always voiced a strong opposition to capital punishment, it has, however, never moved beyond statements of intention.

This urgent situation calls for action as statements do not and will not change this dramatic state of affairs. In a recent statement, you declared: "Despite the potential unpopularity of the measure, capital punishment must be totally removed in all countries which strive to uphold democracy, the rule of law and human rights", and in 2001 during the first International Congress against the Death Penalty, which took place in Strasbourg, representatives of all European Union states signed a resolution calling for universal abolition. Since then we, as abolitionists, have been completely abandoned in the face of the terrible ongoing wave of US executions, especially in Texas.

The European Union continues to display verbal convictions that it is obviously unable or unwilling to support with committed actions in defense of its beliefs. We expect and demand action beyond mere words to help bring government-sanctioned killing to an immediate and unconditional end.

Click here to read more and sign the petition.

Petition from Sherrie Stone: Help save her father's life!

I have a father on death row in Alabama. Most of you never knew this about me. He has been there for 25 years for a crime he did not commit. He is scheduled to be executed next month 09-27-2007. His web site is Thomas Arthur Fight For Life.

There is history about his case there and links to legal documents. What I am asking of you is to sign the petition that is on the web site. I am asking the Governor of Alabama to stay the execution until we can have the crime scene evidence DNA tested. There is actual crime scene evidence that was collected and still exists that the State of Alabama refuses to DNA test. If you look at the site and do not want to sign the petition, I will truly understand. If you do sign and want to e-mail the Governor, I will appreciate it with all my heart. I will be on some national news show in the coming weeks in an effort to change some laws in Alabama, and to plead with Governor Riley in Alabama to stay the execution until we can DNA test the crime scene evidence at our own expense. If you look at the site and decide to sign the petition and know anyone you can pass this information to, I would appreciate it with all my heart.

Sincerely,

Sherrie Stone

Monday, August 27, 2007

Shujaa Graham speaking on behalf of TX Death Row Inmate Kenneth Foster

Shujaa Graham, here speaking on behalf of TX Death Row Inmate Kenneth Foster, July 2007, spent three years on California’s death row for a crime he did not commit. Shujaa was framed for the murder of a prison guard because he was active in fighting for prisoners' rights. It took four trials and the work of dedicated high school students until Shujaa was found not guilty.

Source : National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

A Cruel and Unusual Excuse: Texas Evades EU Call to Conscience


In order to stop the killing at Texas death row, the European Union on Tuesday, through the office of its Presidency, asked the Governor of Texas to declare a death-penalty moratorium. But the Governor's reply was quick and flippant. He did nothing to stop the 400th killing Wednesday evening, and it is becoming horribly apparent that he will do nothing to intervene in the 3 executions scheduled for next week -- not even for Kenneth Foster who never killed anyone.

"We believe that elimination of the death penalty is fundamental to the protection of human dignity, and to the progressive development of human rights," argued the EU. "We further consider this punishment to be cruel and inhumane. There is no evidence to suggest that the use of the death penalty serves as a deterrent against violent crime and the irreversibility of the punishment means that miscarriages of justice - which are inevitable in all legal systems - cannot be redressed. Consequently, the death penalty has been abolished throughout the European Union."

In reply to the EU's four carefully worded reasons, the Texas Governor answered that "Texans are doing just fine governing Texas."

"Texans long ago decided that the death penalty is a just and appropriate punishment for the most horrible crimes committed against our citizens," said the Governor in an oddly titled "Statement by Robert Black." Does the Governor have in mind some joking reference to the film, "Meet Joe Black"? Speaking for the Governor, Mr. Black reminded the EU that the USA was born out of a revolution "to throw off the yoke of a European monarch."

The reply by the Texas Governor is a logical embarrassment, because it waves around an issue not disputed by the EU while failing to provide any reason beyond state's rights for why the long-ago decision by Texans should be considered reasonable.

When the Governor calls the death penalty "just and appropriate" we first wonder if he means to suggest that anything whatsoever can be just and in-appropriate. The construction of the Governor's conjunction signifies a careless haste in thinking precisely in a moment when careful considerations are most called for - that is, on the eve of the state's 400th execution.

If Texas has good reasons for deciding that the death penalty is a just basis for killing 400 people, and if the killing is to continue with an even broader scope to include people who drive cars for killers, then a "decent respect to the opinions of mankind" would compel the Governor to treat the matter with the logical seriousness that it deserves. Instead we get an anti-littering slogan on retreads: "Don't Mess with Texas."

Perhaps the Governor means for his readers across the Atlantic to infer that where a "most horrible crime" has been committed, a most terrible punishment is not to be considered cruel or unusual. An eye for an eye, a life for a life. If this is the Governor's intent, we would prefer that he state his reasons more clearly so that the discourse may continue on open ground.

In matters of judgment and punishment we may allow the Governor a point, despite the atrocious rhetoric that he uses to put it across. The law does seem to demand a certain reciprocal retribution for wrongdoing. But in all other cases, the lawful currency of punishment is put in terms of cash damages or some manner of restricted freedom, up to and including life in prison. If we don't literally take an eye for an eye, on what basis do we decide to take a life for a life? Texas has enough prisons to hold 400 killers for life.

The Governor's failure to state the case more clearly not only deflects dialogue on the second point raised by the EU; it also serves to fog the fact that the Governor completely evades the other three issues raised. If Texas takes the position that death for death is just, based on the horribleness of the crime, where does Texas stand on the other 3 issues raised by the EU?

Does Texas not believe that an eventual end to the death penalty is demanded by "the protection of human dignity, and to the progressive development of human rights"? The Governor's reply to the EU waves the bloody shirt of a 230-year-old war, but what about the progressive evolution of law in the USA since that time? Didn't Texas and USA follow several European examples in the abolition of slavery for example? Is the Governor suggesting that such monumental achievements of legal progress in Texas will require the world to apply the same methods that put an end to slavery? As for the third point raised by the EU, where does Texas stand on the question of deterrent effect? Does the Governor ease his own conscience by thinking about deterrence or not?

And what about the grave problem of irreversibility?

Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in 2004 for starting a fire that killed a person. But the Texas Governor refused to consider expert reviews declaring that the fire could not have been arson in the 2st place (Mills and Possley, Chicago Tribune, Dec. 9, 2004).

Ruben Cantu went to his execution in 1993 claiming that he had been framed. A dozen years later, both his accomplice and a witness now say Cantu spoke the truth (Olsen, Houston Chronicle, July 24, 2006).

Carlos De Luna was killed by the State of Texas in 1990, but there is good reason to believe that another man was the more likely killer (Possley andMills, Chicago Tribune, June 25, 2006).

"I'm an innocent black man that is being murdered," said Shaka Sankofa(Gary Graham) before his execution in June of 2000 (Wikipedia).

In the case of Kenneth Foster -- who is today on a hunger strike in protest of his scheduled execution next Thursday - the State of Texas does not even claim to be executing a killer. Foster drove the car that a killer rode in. The killing was impromptu and took place about 80 feet from the car. Foster was not part of any conspiracy to murder (Editorial, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Aug. 19, 2007).

As the EU says, mistakes in human judgment are inevitable. Does the Governor believe that Texas is infallible? A decent respect for world opinion requires the Governor to answer the question as if the moral life of his state depended upon it.

By what principles in the 21st Century does the Governor carry his conscience when he acts as if carefully planned killings are necessary to his lawful rule? His reply to the EU, that he executes people because the people of Texas long ago made up their minds to let him, displays a cruel and unusual disrespect toward the ongoing discourse that conscionable governance requires.

Texas Civil Rights Review - August, 24 2007

Source : National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

Friday, August 24, 2007

Rough justice: 80 lashes for 'immoral' Iranian who abused alcohol and had sex

His face covered by a balaclava, an official brandishing a cane repeatedly lashes the back of a man found guilty of breaking Iran's morality laws.

Two police officers hold the legs of 25-year-old Saeed Ghanbari and another his arms to ensure there is no escape from the punishment of 80 lashes handed down by a religious court.

Traffic was brought to a halt in Qazvin, 90 miles west of the capital Tehran, as more than 1,000 men gathered behind barricades to watch the public flogging.

Some took pictures on mobile telephones, others climbed traffic lights for a better vantage point as Ghanbari was marched to the centre of the square under the watch of blue-uniformed guards carrying machine guns.

A four foot long metal bench was taken from a police van and the convicted man was made to lie on it on his stomach, his fawn checked shirt pulled-up to his shoulders to expose his back and waist.

One police officer held his hands together beneath the bench, two others gripped his legs to ensure there was little movement.

Two police officers stood-by, their faces covered with balaclavas - each to administer 40 lashes.
Both men then lashed Ghanbari, taking the cane back behind their heads to guarantee maximum impact, each stroke leaving a distinctive red mark and bruising on his back.

Several wounds began to bleed.

It was unclear exactly what his offence had been as the country's strict morality laws cover many areas, but it was reported he had been convicted of abusing alcohol and having sex outside of marriage.

The public lashings have been endorsed by the judiciary as a way of deterring alcohol abuse at a time when it is on the increase among young men but some religious leaders are said to be questioning their validity, fearing they have an adverse impact on the country's image abroad.

Although men and women convicted of flouting public morals are routinely flogged in detention centres, public floggings are considered rare.

Human Rights groups say there have been a marked rise in recent months in the number of people sentenced to executions and floggings in Iran.

Amnesty International, which said it is "greatly concerned by continuing human rights abuses in Iran", has highlighted figures revealing 117 people were executed in 2006 with thousands facing floggings.

They included a woman, who had been forced into prostitution as an eight-year-old, receiving 99 lashes because of "acts contrary to chastity."

Earlier this year, a man was flogged after a copy of the Bible was found in his car.

At least 120 executions have been recorded so far this year, according to Amnesty, with two youths under the age of 18 when they committed their crimes among those killed.

The latest gruesome pictures have emerged three weeks after there was an outcry over a video of a flogging in a Malaysian jail was posted on the Internet.

The sickening images showed a man being lashed repeatedly on the buttocks until he bled from several wounds.

Source : Daily Mail

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Texans are doing just fine governing Texas

"230 years ago, our forefathers fought a war to throw off the yoke of a European monarch and gain the freedom of self-determination. Texans long ago decided that the death penalty is a just and appropriate punishment for the most horrible crimes committed against our citizens. While we respect our friends in Europe, welcome their investment in our state and appreciate their interest in our laws, Texans are doing just fine governing Texas.”

-- Rick Perry, Governor of Texas

Texas carries out 400th execution

HUNTSVILLE, Texas – Convicted killer Johnny Ray Conner was executed Wednesday evening for the slaying of a Houston convenience store clerk during a failed robbery nine years ago.

The execution was the 400th in the nation's most active death penalty state since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976. Texas resumed executions six years later.

Mr. Conner asked for forgiveness repeatedly and expressed love to his family and his victim's family, who watched him through windows in the death chamber.

"This is destiny. This is life. This is something Allah wants me to do," he said. "What is happening to me is unjust and the system is broken."

He was pronounced dead at 6:20 p.m., eight minutes after the lethal drugs began to flow.
Mr. Conner, 32, was the 21st inmate put to death this year in Texas. Three more are scheduled to die next week.

Earlier Wednesday, his lawyers lost an appeal to the Supreme Court to stop the execution. In arguments rejected by the justices, Mr. Conner contended his trial attorneys were deficient for not investigating an old leg injury that left him with a limp, which would have prevented him from running away quickly from the store where Kathyanna Nguyen, 49, was gunned down on a Sunday afternoon in May 1998.

Witnesses who identified Mr. Conner as the gunman told of seeing a man running from the scene. None mentioned a limp.

A federal judge agreed with the argument and granted Mr. Conner a new trial. A federal appeals court disagreed and overturned that ruling this year, clearing the way for his execution.
The prospect of Mr. Conner becoming Texas' 400th executed prisoner prompted an outcry from death penalty opponents.

The European Union, which opposes capital punishment and bans it in its 27 nations, urged Gov. Rick Perry to stop the execution and impose a death penalty moratorium.

Perry spokesman Robert Black said the state would decline the call for a moratorium.

Scheduled to die Tuesday is DaRoyce Mosley, for his part in the slayings of four people in the robbery of a bar in Kilgore in 1994.

Source : Associated Press

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Kenneth E. Foster Jr. and John Joe Amador: "a protest of passive non-participation in our executions"

AUGUST 22, 2007 DIRECTIVE

In the name of Human Rights; all religious doctrines of Peace, Love and Forgiveness; and in the vision of reform and atonement, on the above said date myself (Kenneth E. Foster Jr.) and John Joe Amador have committed to a protest of passive non-participation in our executions. Together we have decided to go on a spiritual missin to oppose our systematic executions in the hopes to open the eyes of people that think this horrific process is ok.

Starting on the 22nd we will engage in passive non-participation in this process in the same fashion that civil rights fighters stood down the cruel and inhumane treatments of their time.

We are here to say that we do not condone violence and will not promote it. We recognize that violence will not solve our problems, just like executions do not help our society. We are committed to peace and grassroots activism. We are not doing this for ourselves, but for YOU, the people, to demonstrate to you that we do not agree with this process. We do this for YOU, the people, to show that we are new men today and that we must stand down the death penalty. We seek to harm no person and we will not. We pray to compell this society to look at the death penalty in a new light.

Starting on the 23rd we will begin refusing all food. We will not eat any more meals served to us. Our only nourishment will be liquids.

Bexar County had lined up two San Antonio executions in a row - John Amador's for the 29th and mine for the 30th. While my case is known, Mr. Amador's is not. I will give Mr. Amador the opportunity to write his own words regarding the injustices that he has faced at the hands of Bexar County. Since I have a visual plight I am here to say that the State is wrong in its desire to kill me. If I was as equally guilty as the 2 other men in the car, and these 2 men are not on death row, then I should not be either. This is an obvious injustice and railroad.

As we enter into being 7 days away from our execution we will be placed in cells that have video cameras where we can be observed 24-7. We cannot condone this invasion. We cannot participate in the way our humanity is being stripped. While we are NOT indifferent to the victims, we are also not indifferent to the fact that we are still human beings. But for a country that professes it wants a good society it's hard to acknowledge that when the prison population is 2 million and rising and the conditions are left horrific. So what is really the purpose of the Penal system? We also ask you to think about this - in any other country when people are lined up and slaughtered it's called genocide. They said Sadaam Hussein committed mass Genocide. It has happened in Darfur and Rwanda and Presidents of Cuba and North Korea have been accused of it. But when America does it it is called justice? Texas will surpass 400 murders this year. If we are to be unjustly taken then we do not want to go silently. We will not walk to our executions and we will not eat last meals. We will not give this process a humane face.

We ask all of you to stand for human rights. We are men that are dedicated to change and betterment. We are dedicated to give atonement to the system and society. Who of us will be left to guide the lost? We sacrifice this for society, not for us, because death row is a cancer in the body of this country. Our actions are antibodies to oppose this atrocious disease.

I, as a DRIVE representer, stand in the name of a better day. We will be on a DRIVE and we do it with prayers, love and understand - even for those that hate us. We don't hate them and we don't hate the TDC officers that will usher us to our murders. Reports have said that Governor Perry is doing the will of the people. So, we come to you, the people, to relook at this process.

For those that have read about my case you now see how arbitrary capital punishment can be. AS long as it exists these things WILL continue to happen. Why? Because human beings are fallible. Many people want us to be the men we was 10 years ago. But we're not. We could point fingers and talk about scams and corruption going on. We can talk about the ENRON's and the Scooter Libby's, the Guantanamo Bay's and Abu Ghraib's. But we won't because we know you know that these things exist. We will only point our fingers up.....up.....and say that WE MUST GET UP. We must get up the way the CEDP has gotten up and made a movement. We must get up like these medias, politicians and even friends to the victims have gotten up. Some of us see a new way. It is possible.

And so, on August 22nd we commit ourselves to something that is beyond us. Perhaps we are just tools for a greater purpose.

We will not lift a finger to another person. We will only lift our voices and spirits. We will allow YOU, the people, to be the force that must be reckoned with.

We close this Directive in the words of Martin Luther King Jr.:

"Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can't murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can't establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can't murder hate. Darkness cannot put out darkness, only light can do that."

Let's shine to the world.

In struggle,

Kenneth E. Foster Jr. & John Joe Amador

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Flood calls to Gov. Rick Perry's Office and The Parole Board!

Reminder from: lampofhope Yahoo! Group

Title: Flood calls to Gov. Rick Perry's Office and The Parole Board!

Date: Tuesday August 14, 2007

Time: All Day

Repeats: This event repeats every Tuesday and Thursday until Friday August 31, 2007.

Location: Gov. Rick Perry's Office and The Parole Board Office

Street: Send faxes to 512-463-1849 and 512-463-8120

City State Zip: Austin/TX/78701

Phone: 800-252-9600 (TX callers) or 512-463-1782 (Austin and out of State) and 512-463-1679

Notes: Help Stop The Execution of Kenneth Foster

What you can do?

Make phone/fax calls to Gov. Rick Perry's Office: Call 800-252-9600 (Texas callers) or 512-463-1782 (Austin and out of state), and send faxes to 512-463-1849. Contact the Texas Board of Pardons & Paroles and tell them to grant Kenneth Foster clemency:

Price Daniel, Sr. Building209 West 14th Street, Suite 500Austin, Texas 78701

OR: P.O. Box 13401, Austin, Texas 78711-3401
Phone: (512) 463-1679
Fax: (512) 463-8120

Let Gov. Perry and the Parole Board know thatyou disagree with the Law of Party that includes the Death Sentence. The crime does not fit the punishment to those that did not commit the offense. No one should be responsible for another's action!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Gay Nigerians face Sharia death

Eighteen men have been remanded in prison following their arrest for alleged sodomy in northern Nigeria, the state-owned news agency, Nan, reports.

The men were arrested in a hotel in north-eastern Bauchi State, which is governed by the Islamic Sharia law. The Sharia punishment for sodomy is death by stoning. The men, reportedly wearing women's clothes, are said to have gone to Bauchi town from neighbouring states to celebrate a "gay wedding". Sharia judge Malam Tanimu ordered that the 18 be remanded in prison after they were arraigned before him on Wednesday.

Prosecuting police officer Tadius Boboi said the men's actions had contravened Sharia law, adopted in Bauchi and a dozen other states in Muslim northern Nigeria in 2000. More than a dozen Nigerian Muslims have been sentenced to death by stoning and for sexual offences ranging from adultery and homosexuality. But none of these death sentences have actually been carried out as they were either thrown out on appeal or commuted to prison terms as a result of pressure from human rights groups. Many others have been sentenced to flogging by horsewhip for drinking. But there have been two amputations in north-western Zamfara State which pioneered the introduction of the Islamic legal system in the country.

Nigeria, like many African countries, is a conservative society where homosexuality is considered a taboo.

The Nigerian parliament has been trying to pass a controversial law introduced by former President Olusegun Obasanjo banning gay rights organisations. Gay activists and some human rights groups have condemned the proposed legislation and called for its rejection. But homosexuality and same sex marriage are illegal in Nigeria and are considered very serious offences.

In April, a woman reportedly fled Nigeria after being accused of organising a polygamous lesbian wedding. She later denied the reports. Two years ago, a Sharia court sentenced a man to six months in prison and fined him $38 for living as a woman for seven years in Kano.

-- Source : BBC.news : [www]

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Denies Kenneth's Petition

The Save Kenneth Foster Campaign has officially entered emergency mode with the announcement that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has denied Kenneth's final appeal.

This outrageous decision shows yet again howbackward the Texas injustice system truly is. Now it is up to the Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Rick Perry to grant Kenneth clemency.

It is also a call to all of us to push harder than ever to SAVE KENNETH FOSTER!!!!

The State of Texas intends to execute Kenneth Foster on August 30, despite the fact that he did not murder anyone. Unlike any other state in this country, Texas utilizes a unique statute called the Law of Parties which allows the State to subject a person to death even though he did not kill, intend to kill, help or encourage anyone to do so.

Meanwhile, the Save Kenneth Foster, Jr. Campaign is definitely picking upsteam. We held a highly successful rally on June 21st in downtown Austin. The rally drew over 200 people who marched and heard from fantastic speakers and performers. Since then, media coverage has really picked up,with recent editorials in the Ft. Worth Star Telegram and the Austin American Statesman calling for clemency for Kenneth Foster, Jr. We have had radio coverage on Chuck D's show on Air America, Democracy Now, and more. We have much more planned in the coming weeks, so read below about how to get involved.

To read the latest news coverage: http://savekenneth.blogspot.com/

Sign the online petition to save Kenneth Foster's life (signez la pétition en ligne pour sauver la vie de Kenneth Foster)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Letter from Kenneth Foster to Governor Perry

Kenneth E. Foster, Jr.
#999232
Polunsky Unit (Death Row)
3872 FM 350
SouthLivingston, TX 77351

Texas Governor Rick Perry
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, TX 78711


Dear Governor Perry,

Unaware of what I could possibly say that could make a difference, I decided to grasp this opportunity to write to you from my heart, because I believe that God declares for us to live each day to the fullest. While I know that you will be bombarded with letters from people, spoken to by legal representatives and addressed by the media, this is written on a personal basis.

I know that you will have detailed information about my case and the Law of Parties. However, please never forget that although I did not protest when Mauriceo Brown wanted to commit robberies, later I recognized that this was wrong to go along with, and out of respect for my grandfather, I said I had to stop. After I said I wanted to go home, Mauriceo Brown got out of the car to talk to Mary Patrick, and got into an argument with Michael LaHood, which ended with Mauriceo Brown shooting him, of which I had no foreknowledge and would never have permitted, had I known it were going to happen.

I would like to talk from another perspective. What can I say about this death row journey? It has been a curse and a blessing, because as ironic as it may be most humans fear the only thing they are promised at birth and that is death. And as the irony continues, one (here) learns to live by facing death. It’s a stunning process. Yet, for each man he experiences something different. I’ve observed some of the most complex and intricate human behavior probably on this earth - enough experience to more than likely surpass the credentials of any anthropologist or psychologist.
I’ve watched the dreams and nightmares, the hope and despair. I could write a book on it and speak volumes to it. But, I will only say that I thank God for allowing me to journey through this keeping my sanity and being anointed with a gift to learn, grow, and pass on positivity.

There’s so much that the world doesn’t see - so much that politics will bar, but regardless of it all, a man still has the opportunity to tap into the beauty of humanity and experience that regardless of his outside circumstances. I just wish that you all could see it. I do realize that you feel you have a certain Justice to serve.

I’ve come so far in my journey that I no longer hold spite, because I’ve been granted an Understanding that is keeping me. It was a quote that I read once that said - “To maim and destroy the body of man is no deed of recognition for valor, whether in war or in mortal conflict. But, to save a body, which is the temple of the soul, is an act and deed of the God-like.” Those words changed me, because it was just as much about me as anyone else.

Governor Perry, I don’t think that I have to detail why I feel my situation is unjust - either personally or politically. I believe that all the evidence and letters will speak so loud to you. However, I think it’s important to tell you that I have tried to use this situation as a transformation process. Everyday I have tried to be an exception to the stigmas and stereotypes. I wanted to show that a man here could be more than his error or labels. And so, as I submitted myself, I found the heart to pray for you and your family, the victim and his family, my co-defendants and their family. I’ve discovered (and hopefully others will, too,) that the pain, sorrow and compensation is not taken care of through simply saying I’m sorry or through hundreds of executions, rather giving love everyday, helping someone, speaking truth to power - showing that one man with courage can be a majority. The only Joy I have is in educating, reforming and revitalizing; and if you believe it or not I do this because of you all, not myself. Because if I did anything for me I’d be a wretch, but through you all (those that love me or not,) I’ve found humanity embracing me. I’m thankful, regardless.

You’re a history maker, Governor Perry, and I am a part of your history and I think what happens to me will be a relevant part of history. I wish I could appeal not only to your morale and conscience, but to your soul. I wish we could talk about the last 10 years and everything between. I wish we could view the way each life through this process has been touched. Often the Divine is revealed through the hardest trials and tribulations.

My only plea is that I wish I could live for the sake of my little daughter who will be so deply wounded to not have her daddy. I do not want to be set free. I want to pay for what I did. I drove a car and let a man rob other people. That is not a capital crime. I allowed Mauriceo Brown to get back in the car. Because of my own blatant shock and disbelief at what had just occurred, I helped him leave a crime scene. That is not a capital crime. I never sought nor desired that Michael LaHood, Jr. be killed.

I wrote this letter from the heart, just trying to show you how one can transform, how beauty does persist, how change can come. I prayed different Psalms and Proverbs over this letter. I’ve passionately spoken all of my request for Forgiveness, Peace, Life, Justice, Freedom, Love, Understanding to The Creator and His Creation. I stand on the Faith knowing that all of the roles we have played in this walk of life will have a greater purpose. I’m glad to have had this opportunity to speak with you.

With God’s Love,

Kenneth Foster

U.S.: 1000th execution


Saturday, August 4, 2007

Upcoming Execution Raises Questions of Whether Texas' Law Goes Too Far

On August 30, Texas has scheduled the execution of Kenneth Foster Jr., despite the fact that all parties agree that Foster did not personally kill anyone.

Foster was sentenced to death under the Texas Law of Parties that permits a person involved in a crime to be held accountable for the actions committed by someone else. In this case, Texas maintains that Foster deserves the death penalty because he "should have anticipated" that a passenger in his vehicle would exit the car with a weapon and kill someone. "[Foster] was a victim of a statute that was never intended by its authors to be used this way," said Foster's defense attorney, Keith Hampton. "I talked to the authors, and they intended [the statute] to be used in conspiracy cases."

Foster was just 19-years-old when Mauriceo Brown, a passenger in the car Foster was driving, shot Michael LaHood in San Antonio more than a decade ago. New testimony shows that Foster did not play a major role in the crime. Though Foster, Brown, Julius Steen, and Dewayne Dillard, were all traveling together that night and had committed two armed robberies prior to LaHood's murder, Steen and Dillard have stated that Foster could not have anticipated the crime. Brown, who was executed for the murder in 2006, also said that Foster did not know he was planning to kill LaHood. The men all maintain that Foster, who had borrowed the car from his grandfather, repeatedly pleaded with the group to go home before they encountered LaHood. He also tried to drive away when he heard the gunshots, but Steen and Dillard made him stop and wait for Brown. Steen received a 35-year-to-life sentence for the crime, and Dillard was given a life sentence.

During Foster's trial, his court-appointed defense attorney failed to bring up key points that might have vindicated his client and failed to pursue important testimony in the case. The same attorney also filed a 20-page appellate brief on behalf of Foster, which is unusually short in length for a death penalty case. According to court documents, at least one of the jurors from Foster's original trial has said in an affidavit that he would have given a different verdict if he had known of Foster's lack of foreknowledge of the shooting.

Federal District Judge Royal Furgeson of San Antonio overturned Foster's death sentence in 2005, saying, "There was no evidence before Foster's sentencing jury which would have supported a finding that Foster either actually killed LaHood or that Foster intended to kill LaHood or another person. Therein lays the fundamental constitutional defect in Foster's sentence . . . . Therefore, Foster's death sentence is not supported by the necessary factual finding mandated [by the U.S. Supreme Court] and, for that reason, cannot withstand Eighth Amendment scrutiny." However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit overturned that decision. (Austin American-Statesman, July 28, 2007, and Fort Worth Star-Telegram, July 29, 2007).

Source : Death Penalty Information Center