Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Flawed Case Against Kenneth Foster

Kenneth Foster is a victim of the State (our State, the State of Texas). Kenneth Foster asks to be allowed to perform atonement rather than being put to death for a crime he didn't commit. He does show remorse for the crimes he did commit, and asks for atonement for them under the Law. He does not necessarily show remorse for a crime he did not commit, that of killing Michael LaHood, although he tries to; nor should he have to, or possibly even be fully able to, because he did not kill, intend to kill, condone the killing of, or act intentionally in any way as a party of the offense that Mauriceo Brown was executed for, and that Kenneth has been condemned to die for on August 30, 2007.

Kenneth Foster does express regret for Michael LaHood's death, expresses appropriate bereavement for any part he had in the death of Mr. LaHood, reaches out to the LaHood family expressing his sorrow, and is willing to offer atonement for any part he has had in the tragedy, from Kenneth's unique perspective of having served 11 years under a unjust death sentence for the tragic crime. This, any reasonable person or entity(?) can easily discern from Kenneth Foster's own words during the KXAN interview.*

The Case

The fatal flaw in this case was committed by the State and by the State's Prosecuting Attorneys, by their own misunderstanding and misapplication of the Law of Parties case against Mr. Foster.

The Law of Parties case against Mr. Foster was flawed in the original joint trial of Foster and Brown because these two sets of events are legally distinct from each other, by the fact that the State divided the two receiving lesser sentences into other trials, then used the information and testimony from Mr. Steen to attempt to establish a contiguous history of events to convince a jury that Kenneth Foster was guilty under the Law of Parties statute. For clarification, the Prosecution established the Law of Parties case against Mr. Foster, by juxtaposing circumstances occurring before the encounter with Mr. LaHood with the legally unrelated circumstances of Mr. LaHood's tragic death, which act occurred after agreement among the four had been reached that no more robberies were to be planned or carried out, at Mr. Foster's desire expressed to Mr. Dillard, saying that he "didn't feel right" about what was going on; facts that were not heard in the original trial due to restrictions over access to Mr. Steen and ineptness by Mr. Foster's inexperienced lawyer, and refusal to hear this testimony of both Mr. Steen and Mr. Dillard in subsequent attempts at appeal. Obviously, they were successful at convincing the jury using this manipulated and truncated evidence, but the Law of Parties statute should never have been invoked under the circumstances which so jeopardized the constitutional and civil rights of Mr. Foster. The continuity between the two events never existed, and was rendered even more tenuous by the fact that all parties were not treated equally under the Law. DeWayne Dillard and Julius Steen were not tried under the Law of Parties statute, although they could easily have been so, as easily as Kenneth Foster was tried and convicted, and their testimonies should not have been allowed under the circumstances in the joint Brown/Foster cases. The case ethics smacks of a vendetta instigated against Mr. Foster by an overzealous State of Texas.

Kenneth Foster was tried in the same trial with the convicted killer of Michael LaHood, known as Mauriceo Brown who was executed last year, except for the distinction that Kenneth was tried under the Law of Parties statute while Mr. Brown was tried for the actual shooting, a distinction I'm not sure the Jurors were completely aware of. Mauriceo Brown acted alone out of his own free will in pulling the trigger, by Mr. Brown's own testimony and by clarifying evidence offered by the other two parties in later appeals, by both DeWayne Dillard and Julius Steen. DeWayne Dillard, whose gun was used by Mr. Brown in the killing, and Julius Steen were tried separately for the crimes committed earlier that night in M. Steen's case, and for other crimes at other times and circumstances in Mr. Dillard's case, and were given lesser sentences for their crimes than Mr. Foster received. Mr. Dillard is serving a life sentence for his involvement in two murders not related to this case, and Mr. Steen received a reduced sentence of 35 years through a plea bargain for Aggravated Robbery for the two earlier robberies that night, because he had turned State's Evidence in the State vs. Brown/Foster trial, and it was Mr. Steen's truncated State's Evidence which convinced the jury that was heard in the original trial. Given that the Aggravated Robbery offense Steen was tried for was for the two robberies committed by Mr. Foster's passengers in the rented car before the impromptu killing occurred, a separate fact admitted to by the State in negotiating a plea bargain with Mr. Steen, and also that Kenneth had stopped his passengers from committing any more spree robberies, hours before the shooting occurred, then Kenneth Foster should not have had any evidence brought forth from the other case(s) for the Prosecution to argue the Law of Parties case against himself, or the evidence should have been deemed inadmissible by the Judge in the case of Mr. Foster's Law of Parties.

Reasonable Doubt, a protection that the State understands and is charged with upholding, would indicate that Kenneth Foster's sentence be commuted, and that he be given a new trial if necessary.


I am a legal person. As such, I am expressing my sole unsolicited opinion the way that I see it. I am a lifelong Texas citizen from Austin, Texas. I am not connected with or in any way profiting from involving myself in this discussion. I am not a lawyer. I know Mr. Foster only through his writings and his words in the media. I am late to any knowledge of Mr. Foster's case, having stumbled upon my involvement only a few weeks ago. Before three weeks ago I'd never heard of Kenneth's case, and I regret that the time has been so short for my contribution here.

I express my full sympathy to the LaHood family over Michael LaHood's tragic death, and I abhor any killing of one person by another by any means for any reason except self-defense or in the defense of others, and I realize that sometimes it happens for good reasons (i.e. to defend against the taking of a life or lives in jeopardy of the use of eadly force by another). In my humble opinion, the killing of a person of Kenneth Foster's intellectual and moral stature will not help the LaHood family members achieve closure for their loss of Michael LaHood.

I am not a lawyer. I'm sure that I have not parsed this well, nor do I claim to have full knowledge of the particulars of the case, and I have strong feelings for what is right. See Kenneth's Case on the FreeKenneth site for more details on the case. My only desire is that my contributions may help others to understand this case and my reward would be in making a difference to Kenneth Foster and his family, the LaHoods, and to the world in general. My knowledge of the case comes from brief browsing on the Internet and on the FreeKenneth site and talking with people both within the community of his supporters and without.


Heavysideways said...

From: "julienball"
What: Call-in, fax-in day to save Kenneth Foster
When: Monday, Aug. 27

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles is scheduled to make a decision by Tu. Aug. 28 on whether to recommend clemency for Kenneth Foster Jr., who is scheduled to be executed Aug. 30 even though the State of Texas admits he did not kill anyone. For Gov. Rick Perry to consider clemency for Kenneth, 5 of the 7 members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles have to recommend clemency for Kenneth. On Monday, Aug. 27, please call the Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. Rick Perry and urge them to grant clemency to Kenneth Foster. With 3 days left to fight for Kenneth, let's keep up the pressure!

Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles:
Phone (512)406-5852
Fax (512)467-0945

Gov. Rick Perry
Phone (512)463-1782
Fax (512)463-1849

You can also automatically send a letter of protest against Kenneth's execution by clicking on the following link:

Kenneth Foster's case "is a new low for Texas," says Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA. "Texas has the most far-reaching 'law of parties' in this country, further marking it as the death penalty capital of the United States. In essence, Kenneth Foster has been sentenced to death for leaving his crystal ball at home. There is no concrete evidence demonstrating that he could know a murder would be committed. Allowing his life to be taken is a shocking perversion of the law."

Kenneth Foster killed no one. The state of Texas is the first to acknowledge this. But Texas--which recently executed its 400th prisoner since the reinstatement of the death penalty--is the only state in the country that uses a legal statute called the law of parties to sentence people to death despite their having no proven role in a murder. In Texas, a prosecutor only has to prove that a defendant involved in a crime that led to a murder "should have anticipated" that a murder was going to take place to find them criminally responsible for murder.

On the night of August 15, 1996, Kenneth Foster was driving a car carrying Mauriceo Brown and two companions, who over the course of the evening committed two robberies. At the end of the night, Mauriceo Brown shot and killed 29-year old Michael LaHood, while Foster sat in the car, 80 feet away, with the windows rolled up, and the radio on. Mauriceo Brown was executed last year. Before his death, Brown took responsibility for Michael LaHood‚s murder, reiterating that Foster could not have possibly known that he was going to kill anyone.

Keith Hampton, Foster's lawyer, says that Texas is using the law of parties to make persons death-eligible on nothing greater than a negligence standard and negligence is the least culpable mental state known to criminal law. This drastically lowers the bar for the ultimate punishment; one supposedly reserved for the "worst of the worst."

Anonymous said...
Delivered-To: mailing list
Date: Wed, 29 Aug 2007 10:53:58 -0500
X-Yahoo-Newman-Property: groups-email-ff-u


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                   
CONTACT: Adam Axel (732) 796-5230
Dana Cloud (512)
731-1025 or Keith Hampton                             

Kenneth Foster’s lawyer) (512)-762-6170
August 27, 2007

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu Signs Amicus Brief Supporting Kenneth Foster’s Supreme Court Petition; President Jimmy Carter Asks Governor Perry to Spare Foster’s Life

Yesterday a Brief of Amicus Curiae on behalf of the
Archbishop Desmond Tutu was filed at the U.S. Supreme
Court in support of a Petition of Certiorari filed by
Kenneth Foster’s criminal attorney Keith Hampton.

The Supreme Court is now poised to decide on Hampton’s
cert petition for Foster on Wednesday, August 29.
Hampton has basically asked  the Court to intervene
and fix the irreversible mistakes the lower courts
have made in this case. Hampton’s petition argues thatthe Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) wrongly decided that Kenneth is death eligible when it dismissed the writ petition Hampton filed in the CCA at court on August 7 and asks the Supreme Court to invoke its own original jurisdiction and exercise its supervisory powers over the lower courts.

“The Archbishop’s support sends a very clear and strong signal to the Court and it’s incredible that someone with such international regard and moral authority has come forward for Kenneth,’ Hampton commented. “I’m very encouraged.’

President Jimmy Carter also came out yesterday in support of Foster. He wrote a letter to Texas Governor Rick Perry asking Perry to spare Foster’s life.

Foster’s legal team and supporters hope that the support of such credible world leaders will influence the Governor and help win the four votes needed on the Board of Pardons and Paroles and the majority of the Supreme Court in Foster’s favor.

The Save Kenneth Foster Campaign, along with Foster’s legal team and thousands of people around the world, has petitioned 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.

Kenneth 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 had 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.  If no relief is forthcoming from the state or the Court, Foster faces execution on August 30.

Anonymous said...


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.”


Anonymous said...

Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2007 16:45:52 -0500
Subject: [CEDP] Meet Kenneth Foster: Speaking on Sports
X-Yahoo-Newman-Property: groups-email-ff-u

Subject: [E of S] Meet Kenneth Foster: Speaking on Sports

Edge of Sports Nation - I sit here stunned: a goofy smile on my face, a tear on my cheek. This must be what victory feels like. Forgive me if I'm not familiar with its near-narcotic euphoria.

For folks who haven't heard, Kenneth Foster's death sentence was struck down today by Texas Gov. Rick Perry after a 6-1 recommendation by the Perry appointed Board of Parolees. This is just a tremendous victory for those of us around the world who fought to make sure today wasn't the day Kenneth was put to death. We must take the time to remember Michael LaHood who lost his life 10 years ago at the hands of Mauricio Brown who was driving in Kenneth's car. But we also remember the words of Sean Paul Kelly, Michael's closest friend who opposed Kenneth's execution. Kelly told the press,

"..the execution of a young man who didn't even kill Mike? That's not justice. It's senseless vengeance, a barbarism cloaked in the black robes of justice."

When victories like this occur, every link in the chain matters. Without question, the strongest links in this chain was Kenneth and his family. Kenneth said from the outset, "It's my belief that if this does not become a political issue then I have no chance."

That was the plan of action laid out for the DRIVE movement on death row, the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and other organizations that worked on his case. We made it political, asking the question over and over why Kenneth should be put to death for driving a car?

It was also the inspiration for a group of athletes and even a couple of sports writers, to stand together and demand that this man not be put to death. I want to take a moment and thank  Etan Thomas, Dr. John Carlos, Lee Evans, Toni Smith, Dave Meggyesy, Jeff "Snowman" Monson, Dennis Brutus, William Gerena--Rochet, Neil DeMause, Doug Harris, Lester Rodney, Rus Bradburd and the INIMITABLE Scoop Jackson.

Below is a letter I received from Kenneth a couple weeks back with some of his thoughts on sports and society. I thought when I would eventually publish it, it would be a kind of eulogy. Instead it is a celebration of the struggle so desperately needed to see any kind of progress. It's also a testament to his spirit. So good people, meet Mr. Kenneth Foster.

In struggle and sports, Dave Zirin

Dear Dave,

Let me say that I grew up like most youths playing sports.  I started off playing pee-wee football and went all the way up to high school giving it 6 years.  I went to high school and hung out with guys that are now NFL football players (Priest Holmes, ND Kalu and have a cousin that was in the NFL as well- Tony Brackens).  I indulged in basketball and track and field as well.  But for me sports never took hold of me the way it did other youths.  I had a pretty active mind, so from year to year I wanted to be/do something new.  My last year in sports was my Freshman year in high school (around 1992).  By then the streets encompassed my mind.

So, coming into prison I entered with a little bit of love for sports. But, I had a different personal legend to unfold, so I slowly began to drift from that interest.  As I began to become politically and culturally conscious the more recidivistic aspects of prison began to heavily reflect off of me.  A strong contrast comes to light when a man steps outside of the prison molds.

Facing an injustice the only thing that I began to get obsessive about was how to get heard and be free, and as the saying goes- you can't serve 2 gods.  Sports, as you know, becomes a way of life.  You monitor it, you almost come to breathe it.  It's not just about watching a game, but knowing the stats, knowing the colleges they came from, knowing their proneness to injuries, etc..  All of this becomes relevant due to the fact that 9 times out of 10 there's money on these games.  Sports becomes a way of life in prison, because it becomes a way of survival.  For men that don't have family or friends to help them financially this becomes an income, and at the same time it becomes a way to occupy your time.  That's another sad story in itself, but it's the root to many men's obsession with sports.

I also began to observe the way sports is used as a crutch for a sense of pseudo-pride.  In prison, due to being stripped of you humanity, man cling to anything they can to give them a sense of identity.  The spectrum varied intensely- it could be keeping a pet snake in your cell, it could be wearing an earring you're not supposed to, keeping your hair trimmed a certain way when you're not supposed to, and then there's the more intense levels of rolling with the gangs or becoming interested in religion, politics, etc..  More times than not sports becomes a crutch.

Seeing this, sports became something that I avoided.  It was just another weapon in the arsenal of ignorance  and mental oppression.  It was another part of the term we call- "penitentiary poli-tricks."  These are tricky games, rules and concepts whose function only dilute and separate prisoner power.  Therefore, I began a self-induced process to undergo sports amnesia.  I didn't watch it, I didn't even listen to it, I didn't gamble on it and didn't entertain conversation about it.  I even extended that to the city I was from.  Not wanting to be belligerent in conversation if a person asked me where I was from I would tell them.  I didn't mind the casual conversation.  But, I made sure to keep the lines drawn.  There's a comfort zone that rises and while interacting with each other and joking ones, while playing the dozens on each other, will way things like- "Aww, that fool must be from Dallas talking like that.  You know how them fools from Dallas is," or "that sounds like a Knicks  fan over there, you know them dudes is throwed off anyway."  The cities and teams become protracting devices often-times for subliminal feelings and thoughts.  This really becomes so when someone has lost a gambling bet and what often comes out as- "Man, them damn Spurs ain't shit.  To hell with them Spurs,"- usually translates to: "Man, fuck you."  And this has been the cause of numerous prison riots across the kountry.

This is why when I'm approached with the city pride think I let an individual know straight from the outset- I don't represent cities, I represent ideologies.  I don't care about any city or State in this kountry, because the only thing they've done is railroaded me and ain't none of these teams donating to my Defense Fund, so they don't exist in my world- That's a truth that can't be rebuttled.  But for many, whom are hopeless and still lost in their lower-selves, sports is a mighty ruler in their lives.

In 2000 Texas' death row was moved to a new unit due to a death row prison escape in 1998.  As a result Texas officials stripped us of everything we had- work program, group rec, arts and crafts and TV's.  That has lasted up until today and those continued conditions was the spark for the creation of DRIVE ( which was a protest coalition I helped create. But, having no TV's doesn't stop the sports lovers.  They go into their radios and find ways to wire it up and catch TV stations by radio, so the love of the game continues.

For a prisoner who has become politicalized I have a very hardline mentality- so things like sports, gambling, drinking, fooling with guards (in friendly manners) don't exist for me.  Because this goes against the grain of the norm I become a target not only for guards, but for inmates as well.  From years of repression and humiliation (just like slavery) there is an enjoyed monotony.

I wanted to say that my favorite part of the book was the interview with Mumia.  Mumia just has this way of taking the most complex of issues and making it seem so simple and understandable.  I was even drawing my own parallels throughout your book- for example I saw the censoring of the 2 Live Crew in what David Stern is doing to his NBA Players.  And if we wanted to stretch it, what Stern is doing is on the edges of old Apartheid/Jim Crow laws where you can't do this, you can't do that, you can't go here or there.  Everyday in this kountry we see things that we thought was Rights being rolled back.  Even my case is an example of where they're trying to execute me, because they say I should "anticipate" something and now they've passed laws to make repeate sex offenders eligible for the death penalty.  Pretty soon we'll be back to the old Emmitt Till days where you get murdered for looking at the wrong person (system wise).

And so, all of this ties into a deeper issue.  For those of us in these movements we have strong allies in the athletic field.  You did a great job highlighting Roberto Clemente and Etan Thomas.  I have even tried to reach out to Etan.  I think for those of us in the movement we have to start making demands from athletes (and rappers too).  Athletes have the money and platforms.  I'm sure that many fear going through what Carlos Delgado went through, but in this day and age stances must be made.  It's never easy to make them, but we, as a people, must stop feeling uncomfortable to stand on what we know is right.  We must not feel uncomfortable to ask for things back from persons that benefit from us so much.  We have to find more Etan's and create coalitions.  They must become serious and passionate like CEDP members.  And when one try to silence them, like they did Delgado, we will let their bias and racist be reflected on their own.

"Athletes, Artist and Activist: from solidarity to power" is the next book you should work on.  We have to connect the Glovers, Etans, dead prezs and Fred Hampton Jrs; also the Delgado's, Welfare Poet's, and other Latin movements.  And then we have to take that internationally building with ones like Chavez and other countries open for progressive change.  We have to put challenges up like Dennis Brutus did with SANROC.

Speaking of such, though I don't know where it was initiated from, I have a great feeling that you probably had your hands in it, and that was the Jocks for Justice petition done on my behalf.  That touched me greatly and whomever is responsible I'd like to thank them from the bottom of my heart. I've read Dennis Brutus' work and I was always enchanted by the photo of Tommie Smith and John Carlos.  It's time to bring this new generation out.

You wield power, because you have vision and like Baldwin said- "Where there is no vision the people perish."  I only wanted to share a piece of my journey with you and want to continue to be a pebble in the pond. Though I wanted to save your book as a collectors item since you signed it I'm going to try to circulate it around here and see what I can spark in these dry prairies.

Brother, I wish you much success in all that you do and will pray that your work opens more eyes and empowers even more minds.  It's been a great blessing for me to have met you, even in this limited fashion. Revolutionary Love to you!

In Sprit/Strength/&Struggle

Haramia Ki Nassar (Kenneth Foster Jr.)


Anonymous said...

Date: Fri, 07 Sep 2007 12:52:25 -0500
Subject: [CEDP] Kenneth: Aug. 30, 2007
X-Yahoo-Newman-Property: groups-email-ff-u

Kenneth Foster Journal Entry from August 30

Resurrection: August 30th, 2007

Like thieves in the night they swooped me up.  It was the eve of my own State sanctioned murder, approximately 8:20 PM and I was listening to shout-outs pour in to me on 96.1 KDOL.

Unexpectedly, there was a knock at my cell door.

There stood a death row Lieutenant and 2 Wardens (Simmons and Hirch.) "Strip out!" was the Lieutenant's order.  "For what reason?" I responded.  "Because we told you to" was all that I got back.  Having no idea what the situation could be I complied with the order. Though I was being provoked I didn't want to act before knowing what the situation was.  I stripped out and exited the cell.  I could feel in my bones that something wasn't right.  And as we exited the pod my feelings were true - there waiting for me was a 5 man extraction team and all of the shift supervisors (several Sergeants) and to top it off several plain clothed people (at first I thought these were Sheriffs, but later found out that it was the TDC Regional Director Mr. Treon and the Warden from the Walls Unit.)  As soon as I set my eyes on this circus like spectacle I immediately dropped to the ground and announced that I wasn't going anywhere until somebody told me where I was going and why.  In his typical tyranical rage Warden Hirch said "I told you we'd tell you when you got up the hallway."  I told him that if he wanted me to cooperate with him that he needed to give me some understanding to what was going on and that's when he told me that I was being taken to the Walls Unit right then.

I needed a minute to think, so I stood up.  By this time I had ankle chains on, so I began shuffling down the hallway.  I was placed in an isolated cage and was again told to strip down.  I saw this as nothing but a degrading process and I began to voice that.  I looked at the Lieutenant and told him that all he was doing he just did 5 minutes ago and that all this was being done just to provoke me and degrade me.  I put on the clothes they gave me and was cuffed again and as soon as I stepped out that cage I laid down in protest.  I emphatically stated that I was not going to participate in what they were trying to do to me. I told them that I would not dignify this lynch show.  I told them the only thing that I could and that is that they were terrorists and they were only terrorizing.  It wasn't bad enough that I was set to die the next day, but I was basically being terrorized in the middle of the night.  I was chained all the way up and placed on a stretcher and i was carried to a dark tinted van where I was loaded in the back.  I saw other death row prisoners watching me through their windows. I could only hope that word would get to my DRIVE comrades.  There is no doubt that DRIVE planned to be in motion with civil disobedience against the wrongful murder that was sitting over my head and alongside of that vibe of resistance was a lot of rumors about something violent to take place. I did the best I could talking to the Staff assuring them that DRIVE does not condone violence in regards to this Struggle, but nevertheless extreme precautions were taken.  And it wasn't just the vibe of DRIVE that was felt, there was a whole other vibe that was being felt and that was the disapproval of the people.  There was social discontent being exuded and the system felt it.  And that led to this expedition.

I was loaded into the van and ran smack into a 4 car SWAT team escort to the Walls Unit.  We had a caravan on our way there and there were a lot of officers armed to the teeth with handguns, shotguns, assault rifles in every car.  There was enough arsenal to wage a small war. Though I was sickened by the whole process I can't lie and say that I didn't feel that every execution should have this type of security concern.  There is no way that people should be able to be friendly while being escorted down the road and murdered.  What this proved to me is that when the people rise up their strength will be acknowledged.

It was about a 45 minute drive to Huntsville.  I silently watched the street signs as I went.  We arrived at the Walls, a Unit that resembled more of a College than a prison.  It seemed that I was taken into the heart of the Unit somewhere deep behind a maze of streets and buildings.  I could only think in my mind that they was taking me to the death chamber, the place that had taken so many men that I knew.  As the van backed up and they opened the door to take me out, I would not walk, so they gladly packed me into the death house.  I was dropped on the floor, my wrists were in excruciating pain.  I was being told to stand up, but I would not.  I only grabbed my wrists which were now bruised and hurting.  I looked around the room and I was surrounded by approximately 10 officers and while I wanted to continue to resist, I took great notice that no use of force camera was rolling. I felt the set up, thus I didn't give them what they wanted.  I allowed myself to be fingerprinted and then I was placed in the death watch cell.

After I gained my composure I surveyed the room.  It was one of the most intensely cold and numb places I had ever seen.  It was a narrow room with about 4 other cells.  I was in the very first - just a few steps away from the death chamber.  In front of my cell was a long table with drink containers and several Bibles. Straight up - it was like a funeral home.  I couldn't help but to again look towards the death chamber.  It was a big steel door with a square window at the top.  It was a one way mirror, so one could not see in.  I just stared at it.  I couldn't help but to think about my good friend John Amador that was just executed hours before.  I felt his presence with me.  I thought of his last words which were so profound.  I was in the Texas catacomb and yet while i was there i didn't feel death calling me.

I began pacing my cell for a moment.  The Unit Wardens spoke to me and were very respectful. They offered me food and drink, but I refused.  For years I had been living off of polluted TDC faucet water, so polluted TDC faucet water would do me just fine then. Slowly but surely my property was gone through and give to me piece by piece.  I then began to sort through my property and divide it up for my family (just in case.)  Once I got things pretty situation I remembered that I had something to do for my wife I had a letter to read that she had specifically wrote for me if I got to the point that I didn't feel I'd get a stay.  Though that feeling had never hit me 100% I felt that this time was as good as any.  I reached into her folder and grabbed the letter that she had written: "You cannot read this unless you are not granted a stay.  Open/read this no earlier than the morning of August 30th" on the front.  While I wasn't unsure of the stay it was approximately 2:30 in the morning of August 30th and I was across from the death chamber, so I felt now was the time to read that letter.  What I opened to was one of the best love letters of my life.  In no way did it feel like a goodbye letter and in fact was an - I will see you later letter.  My wife and I are resolute on the fact that we are soul mates and no matter in this life or the next we will continually swirl around each other.  Her letter did nothing short of hold me up during this time.  It was a beautiful speech made to the man whose heart only she understands. And I was at peace with it.  Something in me told me that those would not be our last love letters.

I finished getting situated around 3:30 AM and fell into a hard sleep.  But, I could not sleep long.  I was up by 6:30 AM.  I woke feeling nothing but love in my bones.  It was such an amazing feeling, because even though I stood hours away from my scheduled execution I didn't feel any fear.  I just felt love surrounding my body and stood head up as I had been doing.  I washed up, but was allowed a shower around 7:30.  By the time I finished and got dressed I was ready to go see my family at visit.  I was ready to face the day head on.

I started off my visits with my most beloved revolutionary sister and brother Walidah Imarisha and Ray Ramirez.  I only had 4 hours to visit with everyone, so we knew that our exchange would be short and sweet.  I was already in the mindset that I wouldn't be doing any goodbyes, but right off the bat the latest media news was what was at hand.  Reports of the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times plus more - was the topics.

Movement, movement and more movement was all we had to talk about. There was no time for goodbyes.  We wrapped up our visit in about 40 minutes and we ended with fist in the air and revolutionary salutes. My next visit would be with my childhood cousin Beverly Fisher and close friend from France Emilie Artaud.  I hadn't seen my cousin in over 11 years, so that was such a warming thing.  Again - no time for goodbyes - news of activism in France and mobilization for the day. Things were positive and as my friend Emilie was ready to leave we exchanged smiles.  Up next was the man himself, my super star point guard of the team Adam Axel.  Here is a young man that was able to move mountains and I have no doubts that if it wasn't for him, I might not be where I am today.  His efforts alongside of the CEDP proved to be life savers.  Our visit was so very upbeat and nothing but victory was tapping at our minds.  My father found his way in inbetween everyone else and I have never seen my father so alive and positive.  His mind was already convinced that victory was ours and no one or nothing could convince him to otherwise.

We all had good talks and as those visits winded down my wife and my grandparents came in.  Everything was joyous.  It had been years since I had seen my grandmother and though ailing with Alzheimer's she was as beautiful as ever to me.  In fact everything was beautiful.  Not once did we feel a need for a goodbye, so after I spoke with my grandfather he departed the visiting room with my grandmother just leaving me and my wife.  There we sat hand in hand, eye to eye talking about this future that we had together.  We talked and talked.  I told her about her letter that I read and we just gave a knowing smile to each other.  We had decided to spend the last hour with each other and as the time got closer to 12noon I noticed my father walking up to our booth.  Neither of us was expecting that, so we looked over to him as he approached and when he got near us he just threw his fist in the air and screamed - "^, 1!!!"  He yelled to me that the Board had voted 6-1 in my favor.  Next to my wifes screams for joy all I could do was let off a grin from ear to ear. As my wife and father embraced I could only tell my father to give her a kiss for me.  And while my father was saying that it was all up to the Governor at that point I knew that there was no more guessing to it.

When the Board didn't deliver their decision on the 28th as planned I knew that something greater was in the works.  I knew that they were feeling the pressure and would want to consult with the higher ups. As I told my supporters - if the decision comes back negative it's over.  That would be a sign that nothing else would go for me. But... if it comes back in my favor I knew that it had been decided that I would live.  So, when that 6-1 came down I knew that victory was mine.  My father left the visitation room leaving me and my wife to rejoice amongst each other.  We gave each other kisses and I pointed something out to her.  I told her that I was always looking for the signs from God.  Once upon a time as a youth I didn't know how to pay attention, though I was always getting signs.  Now I'm very much more alert.  And while I had been getting mixed signals from all the bad dreams my closest friends were having one sign came right before I left the death chamber to go to visit.  The night before when all my property was taken and searched they took all the shoe strings from my shoes.  I had not known this, because they kept my shoes and said that they would give them to me when I went to visit.  So, that morning before visit I told them that I had some tennis shoes and some boots and that I would like my boots.  As I got dressed and my boots were handed to me and I saw the missing laces I could only crack a very wide smile, because my mind drifted to my poem "The Final Call" where I start saying:

"I'm coming straight off death row in boots with no laces."

I pointed this out to them and before I closed my visit with my wife I reminded her I'm coming straight off death row.  She replied emphasizing "OFF!" I smiled and concurred. "Yes, OFF!"  We ended our visit with a kiss from behind the glass and I was escorted back to the death chamber.  As I was placed in the cell I spoke to some of the rank that was around me.  I let one of them know why my family was so excited.  I know that they were monitoring all attitudes, actions and behaviors, so I wanted them to know why my family got so excited.  The guard looked back at me and said "well, today just might be your day."  No sooner than he said that the Warden walked through the door on his cell phone.  He looked at me and said, "They're commuting your sentence."  I guess I was kind of surprised that he told me just like that, so I was like, "That's it? It's done?"  He said, "Yeah, your sentence was just commuted.  We'll have you out of here in just a few."  My head was tingling and I wasted no time to drop to my knees and say a little prayer of thanks to the Most High, because I knew that He had had His hands around this situation.  A few minutes later I was headed back to Polunsky.

On the drive back everything seemed brand new.  Even officers were telling me that I had a new chance at life and I knew that.  The sky was brighter and my heart was lighter.  I got back to Polunsky Unit and was just hoping to be able to get around some comrades.  While I was in a holding cell I had the fortune to see my best friend and mentor Tony Ford pass by and he had a smile so big on his face that I would have swore he had 2 mouths.  That was a perfect passing, because that was my best friend and I'm glad he got to see my face before I left.  I was placed on a pod where I only stayed about 30 minutes.  As I walked through the door there was an elder comrade of mine in the dayroom - Harvey Earvin - and I went up to the bars and let him hug me.

I went into the cell and had only enough time for about 3 persons to send me short kites of congratulations.  And in no time a team came to pick me up.

They wanted me OFF death row and I was ready to go.  In just that fast of time I was being moved off death row and sent to the Byrd Unit to be reprocessed as a general population prisoner.  Having had an international campaign, an armed SWAT team escort and a political commutation there wasn't too many people that didn't know who I was. Most had good things to say to me and one guard even came up to me and asked how I was being treated.  I told him that I was being treated ok thus far.  Not knowing if this was a man of importance I asked him who he was.  He simply replied "Just an officer."

But then he added in "I listen to KPFT everyday.  And Democracy Now!" I could only smile and say - "Right on, brotha!"

And Right On it has been.  After a 10 year battle of fighting the death penalty I can finally sit back and breathe a bit.  I can finally let off a small sigh.  I've said if from the beginning that as long as the battle was on that I couldn't do that.  And though the war isn't over a huge battle has been won and I can finally sit back and exhale and even let go a few tears of joy joyous tears that say that I'm going to continue to have the fuel to do positive and great things.  I have so many to live for so many that didn't get the chance to carry on that greatness they attained while on death row. I can't speak for the men that have gotten off death row before me, but I know that I'm ready to do something phenomenal.  This will not be a wasted opportunity.  So many people stood by my side, supported me and believed in me and I owe them something.  I owe them 100% effort and dedication to the struggle we merged in on.

I can't help but to think about those I left behind - the others that now sit on death watch.  This has been such a traumatic journey and there are so many pains and scars.  I hope that my fight has given some new hope to the struggle showing that the impossible can be done.  And if it ever happens once it can happen again - and it must! History was made on August 30, 2007 and it's this day that I pray HOPE was resurrected amongst our fighters in an otherwise grim minded people where over 400 murders have brutalized us.

Today is a new day and we're taking Texas by the horns and we're not letting go.  We can't let go until we break the beast and I can't help but to end in the same way that I ended my almost prophetic poem "The Final Call":

"These words are a prose of focus on death row... of letting go of the fear and hate of Selves... let's take it off the shelves and activate the way... the way today is leaving the gates... and the point I was trying to make it -- I'M COMING STRAIGHT OFF DEATH ROW!"

CEDP Proxy: Kenneth Foster said...

Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2007 07:08:30 -0500
Subject: [CEDP] Spoken word by Kenneth Foster Jr.
X-Yahoo-Newman-Property: groups-email-ff-u

Below is an amazingly powerful spoken word piece from Kenneth.  He asked
that I type it up and send it out on all supporting list serves.
-Laura Brady, CEDP Austin, ISO

I'm the phoenix rising
from the ashes of death row
I stand as the
love that just would not fold
we grew grassroots
under the steel machine
their hate couldn't stop our growth
I'm the hope
reinstilled inside the hopeless capsules
formerly known as men
at the end
I found a way to begin
the catacomb couldn't hold me
I came out more holy
death kissed my lips and said-
"rise up hungry!"
now my appetite is ferocious
for life
not a crumb shall be wasted
as I serve this 3 course meal of
struggle, spiritualism and liberation
and I won't stop
until our nation
is full
I'm lost in the tears
of those that got pulled
into this killer whale
can you feel my smiles across the miles
as my lips hold up the pain trickling down my face
my brother said-
"forgive them for they know not what they do."
I left at 402
but not before I stood
eye to eye w/ the beast
a one way exit
under the release of
governmental poison
but the voices of the people
would not cease
I was at peace
but at war
I'm haunted by the thought
that there will be so many more
i implore the Ancestors as guides
i'm tore by the facts of
genocide on our backs
somebody replay the track to
"walk with me"
the execution chamber was calling me
i responded w/
they dragged me tho'
the CEDP hit 'em w/ political bombs
to silence their throats
crying for blood
never once did we light a candle
but kept the fire lit from above
if we did it once
we can do it again
let's be a radical wind
friend to storms that tear down the Walls
i can still hear the calls
of comrades drowned
in this rain of terror
i caress my scars
& reflect on the 10 years
when i was too stubborn to bow to stigmas
i wouldn't listen to the system
i survived on Nydesha's kisses
when oppression was served on the tray
it's a new day
"No Struggle, No Progress"
the vanguard way
from Austin to Ithica
they heard what we had to say
Rome to Venezuela
i'm not home 'til we persuade 'em
w/ the Power of the People
that I must be free
as long as I have breath in my lungs
freedom is within my grasp
until then I will be
on a Move &
on a DRIVE
alive, licking & mobilizing
we won't stop 'til we change the tide
one for our love that just would not subside
I'm the phoenix that had to rise
resurrected from the ashes of death row
as I declared in "the prophecy"
victory is mine

(In memory of DaRoyce Mosely and John Amador)

Anonymous said...

A letter from Kenneth Foster:
We touched the world

October 5, 2007 | Page 4
KENNETH FOSTER was saved from execution by the Texas death machine when Gov. Rick Perry granted  clemency--Perry's first such commutation in his years as the Texecutioner--hours before Kenneth was scheduled to be executed on August 30. Kenneth wrote this letter to express his thanks to members of the International Socialist Organization.   
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I OPEN this missive with nothing but revolutionary love and deep respect for all you comrades out there on the front lines of our movement.
I felt compelled to send these words of solidarity to my International Socialist Organization (ISO) brothers and sisters, due to the fact that the ISO has shown me so much love throughout my plight, and I wanted you all to know that there is a great gratitude there.   

I cannot hold back the truth of the fact that from May 30 to August 30, we witnessed a true people's movement. Many people say "Power to the people," but have never even seen it in action. Well, it was just shown across the world.   
What took place was a real proletarian movement. It was truly inter-communalist in the way it was carried out: all colors, all beliefs and all genders. There's nothing more exhilarating than this, in my opinion. It shows what can be done when people unite and put minor differences aside.

Since I began my rise to consciousness, I had faith in our beliefs, and I am now a new child, birthed from the loins of these revolutionary actions. And the whole time, Campaign to End the Death Penalty and ISO members were at the forefront.

This should act as a spark in the prairie. There's actually no way to turn back or  accept any less at this point. How could we? While it‚s true that the killing machine continues, it continues with a dent in its armor. We do face a huge beast, and we have to break it bit by bit.

What I would like for all our comrades--and even those just on the sidelines--is for saving my life to be an investment on the future of the movement.

I‚m not going to be one of these guys who gets off death row and goes about my business. Death row is my business. It became my personal business when it put its boot on my neck, when it subjected me to what it did. Now, it can never lose my attention. Now it‚s personal, and it's for life! I'm looking forward to dealing with it.

And now I am in a new environment and mentalities are different, so I have new obstacles to overcome. Like some comrades say. we have to turn these slave camps into revolutionary camps. The soil of revolution is always fertile in conditions of oppression, so I'm like a  farmer with much land to till.

This is my calling, and I will step up to the challenge with no fear or hesitation. I plan to be as serious as George Jackson was when he was in Soledad and San Quentin.

There will much more to come. But for now, I only wanted to say that what has been done is historic, and no one can take that away from us. It touched the world. The tide is turning. We must continue to be political tsunamis.

I extend these words with nothing but love and strength in my soul, and I hope that all you comrades will find the time to sacrifice like those down in Austin did. Those people are champions. Together, we can be conquerors of injustices. Let this victory stand as a flame in your spirit and please...never let it extinguish. A people's army salute to you all.   
In solidarity for life!

Haramia KiNassor (Kenneth Foster Jr.), Beeville, Texas

Anonymous said...

Awesome! fantastic idea, but will this really work?