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August 30, 2007

2007.08.30: Movement to Save Kenneth Foster Wins Historic Victory

Filed under: Criminal Justice,Racism,Sentencing — nyclaw01 @ 4:05 pm

From: Rebecca L Kurti
Sent: Thursday, August 30, 2007 4:05 PM
To: 1199 Members
Cc: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Movement to Save Kenneth Foster Wins Historic Victory

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SAVE KENNETH FOSTER CAMPAIGN

CONTACT: Dana Cloud 512-731-1025

Keith Hampton (Kenneth’s Lawyer) 512-762-6170

Bryan McCann 309-310-5223

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 today’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 recommened 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.”

2007.08.30: CALL GOVERNOR PERRY TO STOP THE EXECUTION OF KENNETHER FOSTER!!!

Filed under: Civil Rights,Criminal Justice,Racism,Sentencing — nyclaw01 @ 1:06 pm

From: Rebecca L Kurti
Sent: Thursday, August 30, 2007 1:06 PM
To: 1199 Members
Cc: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: CALL GOVERNOR PERRY TO STOP THE EXECUTION OF KENNETHER FOSTER!!!

Governor Perry can still decide to go forward with the execution despite the Board’s recommendation.  Please call the governor to stop the execution of Kenneth Foster NOW!!!

http://www.chron. com/disp/ story.mpl/ front/5095416. html

Board votes to spare Texas man set to die tonight By MICHAEL GRACZYK

HUNTSVILLE ? The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended today that Gov. Rick Perry spare condemned prisoner Kenneth Foster from execution and commute his sentence to life.

The vote from the seven-member board was 6-1. The announcement came less than seven hours before Foster was scheduled to be taken to the death chamber for lethal injection.

Perry does not have to accept the highly unusual recommendation from the board whose members he appoints.

There was no immediate response from the governor’s office.

Foster was the getaway driver and not the actual shooter in the slaying of a 25-year-old man in San Antonio 11 years ago.

Foster acknowledged he and his friends were up to no good as he drove them around San Antonio in a rental car and robbed at least four people

11 years ago before the slaying of Michael LaHood Jr.

“It was wrong,” Foster, 30, said recently from death row. “I don’t want to downplay that. I was wrong for that. I was too much of a follower.

I’m straight up about that.”

Their robbery spree, while they were all high on alcohol and marijuana, turned deadly when Foster followed LaHood and his girlfriend to LaHood’s home about 2 a.m. Aug. 15, 1996. One of Foster’s passengers, Mauriceo Brown, jumped out, walked up to LaHood, demanded his wallet and car keys, then opened fire when LaHood, 25, couldn’t produce them.

LaHood, shot through the eye, died instantly.

Brown ran back to Foster’s car and they sped away. Less than an hour later, Foster was pulled over for speeding and driving erratically.

Foster, Brown, Dwayne Dillard and Julius Steen ? all on probation and members of a street gang they called the Hoover 94 Crips ? were arrested for LaHood’s slaying.

Brown and Foster, tried together, were convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. Foster was set to die 13 months after Brown, 31, was strapped to the same death chamber gurney in Huntsville for lethal injection.

Foster’s execution would make him the third Texas prisoner executed in as many days and the 24th this year in the nation’s most active capital punishment state. On Wednesday evening, John Joe Amador, 32, was put to death for the slaying of a San Antonio taxi driver 13 1/2 years ago.

Foster’s scheduled execution piqued death penalty opponents who criticized his conviction and sentence under Texas’ law of parties, which makes non-triggermen equally accountable for the crime. Foster would join a number of other condemned prisoners executed under the statute, including one put to death earlier this year.

“This is a new low for Texas,” said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA, a human rights organization that opposes the death penalty in all cases. “Allowing his life to be taken is a shocking perversion of the law.”

Foster’s lawyers were arguing in the courts that statements from Dillard and Steen, who were in Foster’s car that night, clarify and provide new evidence that support Foster when he says he didn’t know Brown was going to try to rob and shoot LaHood.

“I didn’t kill anybody,” Foster insisted from death row. “I screwed up.

I went down the wrong path. I fault myself for being in this messed-up system.”

Foster said he was some 80 feet away from the shooting.

“It’s hard for you to anticipate how Brown is going to react,” Foster said. “Texas is saying flat out: You should have known better.

“In life, we have hindsight. Texas is saying you better have foresight.

They’re saying you better be psychic.”

Dillard now is serving life for killing a taxi driver across the street from the Alamo two weeks before LaHood’s slaying. Steen testified at Brown’s trial and received a life sentence in a plea bargain.

Brown testified at his trial the shooting was in self-defense, that he believed LaHood had a gun. Authorities, however, never found another weapon near LaHood’s body. Foster did not testify.

“I thought what (Brown) said was good enough,” he said from death row.

Mike Ramos, among the Bexar County prosecutors handling the case when it went to trial, said he found Foster’s claims unbelievable and was irritated by a publicity effort to spare Foster.

“When you let somebody out of your car with a loaded handgun, what do you expect?” Ramos said. “If he didn’t realize it could happen, I think he’s a liar.”

Last weekend a group of Foster supporters picketed outside an Austin church Gov. Rick Perry attends.

“These guys are rewriting history,” Ramos said. “He was far from any kind of angel they’re trying to portray.”

Ramos said it was clear to him that Foster was “the puppet master pulling all the strings” during the robbery spree.

Nico LaHood, whose brother was killed, said Wednesday he was frustrated that people were willing to believe only Foster’s story, which he called “ridiculous and not true.”

“I don’t know what dynamics are going on that allow us to make the person who is the wrongdoer to become the victim in this case,” LaHood said. His brother, he said, was being “lost in the whole thing.”

On Wednesday, Amador asked for forgiveness for himself and peace “for people seeking revenge toward me,” then was put to death for the fatal shooting of San Antonio taxi driver Mohammad Reza Ayari.

Another execution, the first of five scheduled for September in Texas, is set for next week when South Carolina native Tony Roach faces injection Wednesday for the strangling of an Amarillo woman, Ronnie Dawn Hewitt, 37, during a burglary of her apartment nine years ago.

Brought to you by the HoustonChronicle. com

2007.08.30: BOARD VOTES 6-1 FOR CLEMENCY!!!! ALL EYES ON PERRY!!!!

Filed under: Civil Rights,Criminal Justice,Racism,Sentencing — nyclaw01 @ 12:51 pm

From: Rebecca L Kurti
Sent: Thursday, August 30, 2007 12:51 PM
To: Graciela Lopez; 1199 Members
Cc: ALAA MEMBERS
Fwd: BOARD VOTES 6-1 FOR CLEMENCY!!!! ALL EYES ON PERRY!!!!

The Board of Pardons and Paroles voted in favor of clemency for Kenneth Foster!  This is HUGE!!  Please call Govenor Perry in Texas RIGHT NOW to stop the execution of Kenneth Foster!  The phone number is (512) 463-1782.

2007.08.30: Governor Perry Commutes the Death Sentence of Kenneth Foster

Filed under: Criminal Justice,Racism,Sentencing — nyclaw01 @ 11:16 am
Tags:

—–Original Message—–
From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Thursday, August 30, 2007 1:51 PM
To: Graciela Lopez; Rebecca L Kurti; 1199 Members
Cc: ALAA MEMBERS; James Bernal
Subject: Re: Governor Perry Commutes the Death Sentence of Kenneth Foster!!!

Gov. Perry commutes death row inmate’s sentence

12:08 PM CDT on Thursday, August 30, 2007

By EMILY RAMSHAW / The Dallas Morning News eramshaw@dallasnews.com

Kenneth Foster
Kenneth Foster

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 Also Online

Tell Us: Should Kenneth Foster be executed?

Getaway driver nears execution for ’96 murder (08/20)

90 feet away when crime happened, Texas robber still fighting execution

Editorial: Kenneth Foster does not deserve execution

More countries renounce death penalty, but number of executions up

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.

>>> Rebecca Kurti 8/30/2007 1:34 PM >>>
THIS IS MAJOR!  Thanks everybody who called, faxed, tabled, publicized the case, and what not.  More information will follow later, I am sure.

August 28, 2007

2007.08.28: Urgent Action: Stop Thursday Execution of Kenneth Foster

Filed under: Criminal Justice,Racism,Sentencing — nyclaw01 @ 11:17 am
Tags:

From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 11:57 AM
To: Graciela Lopez; 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS; James Bernal
Subject: Urgent Action: Stop Thursday Execution of Kenneth Foster

Urge Governor Perry, Members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles and Members of the Texas Legislature to Agree to

Stop the Execution of Kenneth Foster, Jr scheduled for August 30, 2007

Attention: Be sure to fill out the text area form below. Do not hit send without writing your message, otherwise you will be sending a blank email to the Texas legislators.

On August 30, 2007, Texas, the state that executes more people than any in the country, plans to deliver a lethal injection to Kenneth Foster, Jr. While this may seem like nothing out of the ordinary for a state that will perform its 400th execution this summer, Kenneth’s case is unique. He killed no one. The state of Texas will be the first to admit this. It seems unthinkable that a man who did not even touch the gun that ended the life of Michael LaHood, Jr. on August 14, 1996 in San Antonio, Texas would be sent to his death for such a crime. What makes this possible is the Law of Parties.

Only four states across the country have laws that enable prosecutors to hold those merely present at the scene of a crime legally responsible. Texas is the only state that applies this statute in capital cases, making it the only place in the United States where a person can be factually innocent of murder and still face the death penalty.

The only remaining option to stop this execution is with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Rick Perry. Also, in order to convince the Governor and the BPP to act, we also want members of the Texas Legislature to write Perry and the BPP to stop this execution.

Please use this form to send Governor Perry, the Board of Pardons and Paroles and every member of the Texas Legislature an email asking them to agree to stop the execution of Kenneth Foster.

In order for your letter to be effective, you must compose it in your own words. Each email that the Governor and the BPP receives must be different and personal. Form letters are not effective.

We are leaving the text field below empty for you to fill out in your own words. You must also fill out the subject line. Please choose a subject line that will make sure that your message is opened and read. One example would be “Stop the Execution of Kenneth Foster”, but don’t just copy that one, since we don’t want all the subject lines to be the same. You could also use refer to the Law of Parties in the subject line.

You must write your own email in your own language to these lawmakers. But here are the key points to weave in

1. Express your sympathy for the family of Michael LaHood. Explain that you are not seeking to excuse the manner of his death or to downplay the suffering his death has caused. Point out that the person who actually shot Michael LaHood, Mauriceo Brown, was executed last year.

2. Express concern at the use of the law of parties in this case, noting evidence that the shooting was the spontaneous act of Mauriceo Brown, and that all those involved in the crime have said that there was no conspiracy to rob Michael LaHood, which would make Kenneth Foster innocent of capital murder.

3. The Court of Criminal Appeals denied relief on August 7 in Kenneth’s case (the vote was 5-3 with one judge not participating). The Court says that this case is now in the hands of legislators and the Governor. Say that you know that legislators have no direct power to stop the execution, but that they can use their influence and access to help persuade Governor Perry to stop the execution.

4. The 5th Circuit stated in a published opinion that the Court of Criminal Appeals got it wrong when they affirmed his death sentence.

5. IT IS MOST IMPORTANT FOR LEGISLATORS TO KNOW that the Texas Legislature passed an Act that forbade the judges of the Court of Criminal Appeals from considering new evidence in death penalty cases in subsequent writs, even if the judges unanimously believed the new evidence would spare a life. This Act, passed in 1995, prevents judges from giving relief to people who they believe are not to be subjected to death.

6. IMPORTANT: Please add a line saying that if the recipient of your message is a member of the Texas House of Representatives, they may contact Rep Dutton’s office if they would like to co-sign the clemency letter that Rep Dutton has drafted and that he intends to send to Governor Perry and the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Thank you for taking action. Please scroll down to see the action form. Please fill out all the fields on the right below, including your email address. The system can not process your message if the email address is left blank.

Be sure to write your email text below. Do not hit send without writing your message, otherwise you will be sending a blank email. Please start writing your message following the salutation: “Dear Governor Perry, Chairwoman Owens and Members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, and Members of the Texas Legislature:”

http://www.democracyinaction.org/dia/organizationsORG/tmn/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=12310&t=kenneth.dwt

August 23, 2007

2007.08.23: Request for Legal Observers for 9/11 Rally

Filed under: Civil Liberties,Civil Rights,Criminal Justice,Police Abuse,Racism — nyclaw01 @ 5:46 pm

From: L.Antonia Codling
Sent: Thursday, August 23, 2007 5:46 PM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Request for Legal Observers for 9/11 Rally

A “Day of Outrage” Rally/Demonstration against police brutality is scheduled for 9/11/07, at 3:00 p.m., at 33rd Street & 8th Avenue, NYC.

The organizers are seeking legal observers for this event.  Legal observers are requested to arrive by 2:00 p.m. or as early as possible.

The National Lawyers Guild is willing to conduct a training for anyone who is interested in serving as a legal observer for this or any other event.  Please reply here if you can serve as a legal observer for this Rally.  Also, indicate whether you require legal observer training.

The date(s), time and location of the training(s) will be announced once it is determined how many people require training.

Thanks.

Antonia

Bx-CDD

718.

August 20, 2007

2007.08.20: Fwd: IPN Emergency Alert Hurricane Dean Emergency Response Circulate widely

Filed under: Uncategorized — nyclaw01 @ 4:18 pm

From: L.Antonia Codling
Sent: Monday, August 20, 2007 4:18 PM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Fwd: IPN Emergency Alert Hurricane Dean Emergency Response Circulate widely

Hurricane relief effort/Emergency supplies:

The first drop off point for emergency supplies has been set up in the  Bronx at:  HEALTHEE ENDEAVORS, 718-653-4140. 3565c Boston Rd Bronx, NY  10469.  Call or email Kbinns12@aol.com_ (mailto:Kbinns12@aol.com)  for driving directions.

August 15, 2007

2007.08.15: Defense Lawyer’s Arraignment is Tomorrow

Filed under: Civil Rights,Criminal Justice,Drug Wars,Police Abuse,Racism — nyclaw01 @ 10:13 am

From: Julie N. Fry
Sent: Wednesday, August 15, 2007 10:13 AM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Defense Lawyer’s Arriagnment is Tomorrow

Michael Tarif Warren, the well known civil rights and criminal defense attorney who was arrested after objecting to the police beating of a Legal Aid client, will be arraigned tomorrow on a DAT.  Please come if you can to show your support both as a colleague of Mr. Warren, and for our client who was assaulted.

Mr. Warren is scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow in AR2 at 120 Schermerhorn St. in Brooklyn.  Reply if you need directions.  For those not in CDD, arraignments technically start at 9am, but I’ve never seen anything happen before 9:30.  His case should be called on the early side, as I’m sure he’ll be on time and he has his own lawyer.

August 9, 2007

2007.08.09: Amnesty International – Action Alert for Kenneth Foster

Filed under: Civil Rights,Criminal Justice,Racism,Sentencing — nyclaw01 @ 10:09 am

From: Rebecca L Kurti
Sent: Thursday, August 09, 2007 10:09 AM
To: 1199 Members
Cc: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Amnesty International – Action Alert for Kenneth Foster

**SPREAD FAR & WIDE!!**

APPEALS TO:

Rissie Owens, Presiding Officer, Board of Pardons and Paroles, Executive Clemency Section 8610 Shoal Creek Boulevard, Austin, TX 78757, USA

Fax:        +1 512 463 8120

Salutation:       Dear Ms Owens

Governor Rick Perry, Office of the Governor, P.O. Box 12428, Austin, Texas 78711-2428, USA

Fax:        +1 512 463 1849

Salutation:       Dear Governor

COPIES TO: diplomatic representatives of USA accredited to your country.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY.

PUBLIC            AI Index: AMR 51/131/2007 8 August 2007

UA 205/07         Death penalty / Legal concern

USA (Texas) Kenneth Eugene Foster (m), black, aged 30

Kenneth Foster is scheduled to be executed in Texas on 30 August. He was sentenced to death in 1997 for the murder of Michael LaHood, a white man, in 1996. Mauriceo Brown, the person who shot LaHood, was executed in 2006. Kenneth Foster, in a car some 30 metres from the crime when it was committed, was convicted under the “law of parties”, the 1974 Texas law under which the distinction between principal actor and accomplice in a crime is abolished and each may be held equally culpable. Kenneth Foster maintains that he did not know that Brown would either rob or kill Michael LaHood. There is evidence not heard at trial that the murder was an unplanned act committed by Mauriceo Brown, as the latter himself claimed.

On the evening of 14 August 1996, Mauriceo Brown, DeWayne Dillard, Julius Steen and Kenneth Foster drove around San Antonio in Foster’s grandfather’s rental car, with Foster driving. They committed two armed robberies, with Steen and Brown robbing at gunpoint first a woman and then a man and two women. Then, in the early hours of 15 August, they stopped outside the house of Michael LaHood to which LaHood and a female companion, Mary Patrick, were returning. According to the trial evidence, Mary Patrick approached Foster’s car and asked who they were.

When she realized she did not know the occupants, she walked back towards Michael LaHood. Mauriceo Brown got out of the car, approached LaHood, demanded his wallet, and shot him. Not long afterwards, Kenneth Foster and his three companions were stopped by police and arrested.

Kenneth Foster, who was aged 19 at the time, gave police a statement in which he said that, “Mauriceo jumped out of the car.We had tried to get Mauriceo to get in the car and leave… We just wanted to leave. I heard a gunshot.I did not know, at the time, that Mauriceo had a gun. Mauriceo trotted back to the car. He was gasping… I asked him, what happened, what had he done. He didn’t reply”.

Mauriceo Brown and Kenneth Foster were tried jointly for capital murder.

Brown admitted being the gunman but denied intent to kill. At the trial Brown testified that there had been no discussion of robbing LaHood before he got out of the car. Foster pleaded not guilty. Both were sentenced to death. Mauriceo Brown was executed on 19 July 2006. Neither Julius Steen nor DeWayne Dillard was prosecuted for the LaHood murder.

To convict Kenneth Foster of capital murder under the law of parties, the prosecution had to prove that there was a conspiracy between him and Brown to rob LaHood, and that Foster should have anticipated that murder might have occurred during the robbery. The prosecution’s key witness was Julius Steen. Although Steen testified that he had not been sure of Brown’s intent when he left the car and that there had been no discussion in the car about committing a robbery, he said that “it was kind of like, I guess understood what was probably fixing to go down.”

Asked by the prosecutor if he had understood that when Brown got out of the car, there was going to be a robbery, Steen testified that “I would say I kind of thought it”. He also said that he was not sure of Foster’s understanding in this regard. Affirming the death sentence in 1999, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals observed that the case against Foster “rested largely on Steen’s testimony as an accomplice”. The prosecution had pointed to the two earlier robberies committed at gunpoint as a reason Foster should have anticipated that a murder could have occurred.

Neither Julius Steen nor DeWayne Dillard (who did not testify at the

trial) was interviewed by Kenneth Foster’s trial lawyers. This was because each was facing charges in other cases, and their own lawyers refused to allow them to be interviewed while those cases were still pending. Since the trial, both have given statements. Dillard testified at a state appeal that before the shooting, Kenneth Foster had told him that he wanted Brown and Steen to stop committing the robberies, and because Dillard had known the two longer, asked him to persuade them to stop. Dillard testified that he himself had believed there would be no more robberies because he had taken his gun back after the two earlier crimes. He said that the four were heading back to his home when they came to a dead end and, after turning the car around, had stopped when they saw Mary Patrick apparently flagging them down. Dillard testified that Brown had grabbed the gun but that Foster was unlikely to have seen that; that there was no agreement or plan to rob anyone; and that no one had encouraged Brown to do what he did. He said that after the shot was heard, Foster had appeared surprised and panicked and started to drive away, but Dillard had told him to stop and wait for Brown.

Julius Steen signed an affidavit in 2003 clarifying his trial testimony, clarification that had not been elicited by the defence because their cross-examination was inevitably weak due to their lack of pre-trial contact with this witness. Steen recalled that it was only when he had seen Mauriceo Brown standing opposite Michael LaHood that he understood “what might be going down. At that point, and not before, I thought that Brown might be robbing the man”. He stated that “There was no agreement that I am aware of for Brown to commit a robbery at the LaHood residence. I do not believe that Foster and Brown ever agreed to commit a robbery. In my opinion, I don’t think that Foster thought that Brown was going to commit a robbery. When Brown got back in the car, we were all shocked. Even Brown looked shocked. I don’t think that Brown knew why he shot the man and was surprised that he did”. In a recent appeal, Foster’s lawyer has argued: “Foster clearly did not anticipate what Brown himself did not foresee. Brown clearly acted on his own independent impulse, and not pursuant to the imaginary robbery conspiracy that has trapped Kenneth Foster on death row”.

In 2005, a federal district judge found a “fundamental constitutional defect in Foster’s sentence”. In 1982, the US Supreme Court had ruled in Enmund v. Florida – in the case of a man who had been in a parked car while his accomplices committed robbery and murder in a house nearby – that the death penalty is disproportionate if it is imposed on a defendant who did not himself kill, attempt to kill, or intend to kill the victim. The Court modified this rule five years later in Tison v.

Arizona when it held that a defendant who participates in a crime that leads to murder and whose “mental state is one of reckless indifference to the value of human life” may be sentenced to death. The federal judge ruled that Foster’s jury had not been asked to determine if he had any intent to kill LaHood, and that this failure represented a misapplication of the law. However, Texas appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned the decision.

Since the USA resumed executions in 1977, 1,089 prisoners have been put to death; 398 of them in Texas. There have been 32 executions in the USA in 2007, 19 of them in Texas. The UN Safeguards Guaranteeing Protection of the Rights of those facing the Death Penalty state that “capital punishment may be imposed only when the guilt of the person charged is based upon clear and convincing evidence leaving no room for an alternative explanation of the facts”. The fact is that Kenneth Foster did not kill Michael LaHood, and there is compelling evidence that he did not plan, intend or anticipate that he would be robbed or killed either.

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in English or your own language, in your own words (please include Kenneth Foster’s inmate number, #999232):

– expressing sympathy for the family of Michael LaHood, and explaining that you are not seeking to excuse the manner of his death or to downplay the suffering it will have caused;

– noting that the person who actually shot Michael LaHood, Mauriceo Brown, was executed last year;

– expressing concern at the use of the law of parties in this case, noting evidence that the shooting was the spontaneous act of Mauriceo Brown, and that all those involved in the crime have said that there was no conspiracy to rob Michael LaHood, which would make Kenneth Foster innocent of capital murder;

– noting that the two other accomplices in the car were never prosecuted in this crime, and yet as the evidence stands today their and Foster’s culpability in it would appear to be similar or the same;

– calling for Kenneth Foster to be granted clemency.

APPEALS TO:

Rissie Owens, Presiding Officer, Board of Pardons and Paroles, Executive Clemency Section 8610 Shoal Creek Boulevard, Austin, TX 78757, USA

Fax:        +1 512 463 8120

Salutation:       Dear Ms Owens

Governor Rick Perry, Office of the Governor, P.O. Box 12428, Austin, Texas 78711-2428, USA

Fax:        +1 512 463 1849

Salutation:       Dear Governor

COPIES TO: diplomatic representatives of USA accredited to your country.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY.

August 1, 2007

2007.08.01: Re: Why not put the contract online

From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Wednesday, August 01, 2007 12:07 PM
To: Susan Morris; DALE Wilker; Joshua Goldfein
Cc: ALAA MEMBERS; James Bernal
Subject: Re: Why not put the contract online

For thirty years prior to the current leadership, ALAA always sought (and usually drafted) unified written contracts, the most recent of which (2000-2002) is attached.  Lags of a year or two, at most, were due not to the union’s lack of interest, but to management’s delay in agreeing to final language.

In sharp contrast, ALAA members have now been without a new written contract for seven years.  As a result, it is virtually impossible to enforce our contract rights or fully appreciate the scope of union give-backs since 2003.

This reflects the current leadership’s broader refusal to provide members with full, timely, factual written reports about union business.  Thus, union members no longer receive:

*Detailed bargaining reports.

*Memoranda of agreement between ALAA’s bargaining committee and management — prior to contract ratification.

*Regular newsletters.

*Annual external audits of union finances.

When questioned, the leadership claims that this lack of disclosure is necessary to keep information from management. But members are often kept in the dark about management’s own decisions (e.g., current censorship and threats to close to ALAA e-mail list), or about the status of grievances.  In other words, management already knows — but the members don’t.

Moreover, neither leadership accountability nor meaningful membership debate and mobilization is possible without the fullest possible dissemination of information.  While oral communication is certainly important, written reports are the glue that ensures that all members — whether or not they attend meetings — are provided with the information to which they are entitled. And written information cannot be as easily fudged.

Not surprisingly, the failure to provide written contracts and other important information has been accompanied by serious erosion of ALAA’s internal democracy and bargaining leverage.

It is part of the leadership’s job to provide clear, competent, timely and detailed written information. It is the membership’s job to hold leaders to that obligation.

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