CONTACTS: Scott Cobb, President, Texas Moratorium Network, email@example.com, 512-552-4743;
Bryan McCann, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, firstname.lastname@example.org, 512-739-4024
Texas House of Representatives Passes Law of Parties Bill (HB 2267)
Amendment Adopted for the Bill to be Known as "The Kenneth Foster Jr, Act"
Austin, TX – May 15, 2009 – The Texas House of Representatives today passed House Bill 2267, "The Kenneth Foster, Jr Act". Sponsored by Rep. Terri Hodge (D – Dallas), the bill would eliminate the death penalty as a sentencing option under the controversial Texas Law of Parties. It would also require separate trials of co-defendants in capital cases. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
The Texas Law of Parties gained national prominence in 2007 during the high profile case of Kenneth Foster, Jr., whose death sentence was commuted by Governor Rick Perry following a national grassroots movement to halt his execution.
“It is my hope that in the future no other families have to deal with the emotional, psychological and financial hell associated with having a loved one on death row for a murder they factually did not commit, like my family has had to deal with for the last 13 years,” said Terri Been, sister of Texas death row inmate Jeff Wood. Wood was sentenced to death under the Law of Parties.
“This bill, when passed, will make me even prouder to be a resident of Texas,” said Kenneth Foster, Sr., father of Kenneth Foster, Jr. “Our family knows first hand the injustices of the Law of Parties, and Rep. Hodge’s bill is a step in the right direction.”
Although Hodge’s bill is not retroactive, and therefore would not affect any current cases like Jeff Wood's, several families of death row inmates convicted under the Law of Parties have lobbied in favor of the legislation.
“This is a major victory for the families impacted by this unfair law,” said Bryan McCann of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. “We are told the death penalty is reserved for the worst of the worst, but its application under the Law of Parties affords prosecutors far too much discretion in pursuing the most severe form of punishment.”
Executions under the Law of Parties are very rare. Three people have been executed in Texas under the Law of Parties, which amounts to 0.6 percent of the 437 total executions in Texas. The last such execution in Texas was in 1993.
"The Kenneth Foster, Jr Act is a much-needed reform. The current law allowing accomplices who have not killed anyone to pay the ultimate penalty for a murder committed by another person is fundamentally unjust", said Scott Cobb, president of Texas Moratorium Network.
Texas Moratorium Network (TMN) is a non-profit organization with the primary goal of mobilizing statewide support for a moratorium on executions in Texas. Web: http://stopexecutions.blogspot.com. The Campaign to End the Death Penalty is a grassroots organization dedicated to abolishing the death penalty. Web: http://www.myspace.com/cedpaustin.