Kenneth Foster is the author of a book of poetry called A Voice from the Killing Machine. Mr. Foster was wrongly sent to death row in 1997 under a draconian Texas legal statute called the Law of Parties. Charged with three others, Kenneth was forced to go to trial with the admitted shooter. Though the admitted shooter pled guilty to acting on his own and with no help or direction from the others, they were convicted together nonetheless (mainly due to extraneous offenses). Both men were sentenced to death: Kenneth’s death sentence mainly came down to driving the car. Unfortunately, the shooter was executed on July 19, 2006. In 2005, Kenneth received a ray of hope when his federal judge threw out his death sentence, but in October 2006 the Fifth Circuit vacated that judgment. All appeals from that point onward were denied. In May 2007 Kenneth received a date of execution for August 30, 2007. At this point, an international grassroots campaign – led by the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and Kenneth’s family and friends – was launched.
From May 30 to August 30, an intense public outcry was heard. Going down to the wire (Kenneth was taken to the death house at the Walls unit and came within six hours of his scheduled murder) Governor Rick Perry commuted Kenneth’s sentence to life after the Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended the same in a six-to-one vote. The ruling was unprecedented and the first ever commutation made by Rick Perry.
It was an amazing victory for the Anti-Death Penalty Movement. This commutation undeniably shows how the death penalty can be abused, and the hard truth is there have been other men sentenced to die under the Law of Parties who did not make it and perhaps should have. Kenneth was just one who fought day in and day out to be heard; he built a support base and refused to give up. Though Kenneth is no longer on death row, he must serve a full forty years before becoming eligible for parole. He and his supporters remain relentlessly fighting for his freedom. Mr. Foster would like to thank the editors at The Harbinger and his wife Celandria. You can contact him and learn more at freekenneth.com.