Death penalty: Texas man to be executed for crime he did not commit

State’s ‘law of parties’ condemned and clemency call

Amnesty International is calling for clemency for a man in Texas who is facing execution on Thursday (30 August) for a crime he did not commit.

Amnesty International’s members are sending “urgent action” appeals to the Texas paroles board and the state governor in a bid to avert the execution.

The 30-year old man, Kenneth Foster, is set to be executed for a murder actually carried out by another man in 1996. Under a controversial Texan law that can make an associate of a perpetrator co-responsible - the “law of parties” - Mr Foster has been found guilty of a capital crime and condemned to death.

In August 1996 Foster’s associate Mauriceo Brown killed a man - Michael LaHood - in what appears to have been a spontaneous attack outside LaHood’s house in San Antonio, Texas. When LaHood was killed Foster was sitting in a car some 30 metres away - but prosecutors have said that he was in a conspiracy with the perpetrator to commit the crime and therefore deserves a death sentence.

Mauriceo Brown was executed last year, one of 53 executions in the USA in 2006. Last week Texas executed its 400th prisoner since it resumed capital punishment in 1982.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“With the death penalty there is always an unacceptable risk of executing an innocent person, and in Kenneth Foster’s case we have a shocking situation of a man set to be executed for a crime he literally did not commit.

“We are urging the Texas board of pardons and paroles to recommend clemency and for governor Rick Perry to similarly accept that there are compelling reasons for halting Mr Foster’s execution.”

Kenneth Foster has never denied being part of a group of four men - himself, Brown, and two other men, DeWayne Dillard, Julius Steen - which had committed two robberies on 14 August 1996. However, comments from Julius Steen about his supposed anticipation of the final fatal robbery were used by the prosecution to convince the court that Foster must also have had foreknowledge of the intent to commit robbery in this case. Steen has since clarified his trial statements, saying there “was no agreement” between the men about the robbery and killing of LaHood and that the group was heading home many hours after the earlier crimes.

The USA one of the highest executions rates in the world. Since the country resumed executions in 1977, over 1,000 prisoners have been executed.

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