Report and pictures from Tuesday's emergency rally for Kenneth Foster Jr.
Governor Perry Unwilling to Face Family of Death Row Inmate Kenneth Foster
About 200 members of Kenneth Foster’s family, friends, and supporters rallied today in Austin to demand that Governor Rick Perry hear the Foster family’s pleas for clemency. At the south Capitol gate at 5 p.m., Bryan McCann, a leader in the Austin-based Save Kenneth Foster Campaign, reminded the gathered crowd, “Every judge in Texas, every prosecutor, every politician, and even Governor Perry all agree on one thing: Kenneth Foster killed no one.”
Then McCann read from a letter from Kenneth Foster. In the letter, Foster vowed that he and Joe Amador (whose execution is scheduled for August 29) would engage in “passive non-participation” in the preparations for his execution, including a hunger strike to begin August 22.
Foster wrote, “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.”
It was in this spirit that Foster’s supporters marched from the Capitol to the Governor’s Mansion, where Nydesha Foster (Kenneth’s daughter), Tasha Foster (Kenneth’s wife), and Lawrence Foster (Kenneth’s grandfather) presented the assembly with three personal letters they had written to the Governor.
In her remarks, Nydesha Foster said she was asking the Governor to spare her father “because I love him very much.” She also called attention to the injustice of the Law of Parties and called on the Governor to give the family justice.
In a dramatic turn, six activists sat down to block the gates of the Governor’s mansion in a physical demonstration of solidarity with Foster’s non-cooperation with the criminal justice system. In June 2000, a dozen activists were arrested during a similar protest of the execution of Gary Graham (a.k.a. Shaka Sankofa).
On Tuesday, however, the police held back as protesters chanted, “Governor Perry, take these letters!” Repeated ringing of the doorbell on the gates went unheeded. Demonstrators chanted, “Save Kenneth Foster!” and “It’s Not Justice, It’s a Lie! Kenneth Foster Must Not Die!”
In the face of the State’s unwillingness to engage the Foster family and other supporters, the crowd spread out across the street, blocking traffic for forty-five minutes. Tasha Foster, Nydesha Foster, and other activists took turns on the bullhorn, calling on Perry and his representatives to respond.
They did not. Then the activists sitting across the Governor’s mansion’s driveway addressed the crowd. “It is clear that the Governor has no interest in being accountable to the people and that he does not care that an innocent man awaits his execution,” said Katie Feyh, who had been among those sitting in.
McCann, who also had been obstructing the driveway, stood and called on those present to continue to make themselves heard all the way up to the time of Foster’s scheduled execution. Noting the growing public pressure and extensive media coverage of the case, McCann said, “We’ve given Perry every reason to do the right thing. We will not be silent until he does.”
Kenneth Foster, Jr. has been on Texas’ death row since 1997 for the shooting death of Michael LaHood, Jr. Foster did not shoot the gun that ended LaHood’s life, but was driving the car carrying the actual triggerman, Mauriceo Brown. Foster was convicted and sentenced to death under the Law of Parties, which allows the state to seek convictions for those present at the scene of a crime as if they committed it. Since Foster’s original trial, the other men in the car that night have testified that Foster had no idea LaHood would be shot. Since Foster received his August 30 execution date, a coalition of family, friends, and other supporters have organized to save his life. The August 21 event follows news that the Court of Criminal Appeals denied Foster relief. At present, the Save Kenneth Foster Campaign, along with Foster’s legal team and thousands of people around the world, are petitioning the Governor and Board of Pardons and Paroles for clemency. The case has received considerable local, regional, and national media attention and public support for Foster has been pronounced.
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The Save Kenneth Foster Campaign was established on May 30, 2007 to organize a campaign to halt the execution of Kenneth Foster, Jr. It meets weekly in Austin, Texas, next on August 22 at 7 p.m. at the Carver Library.
More information on the Kenneth Foster case is available at www.freekenneth.com