HOUSTON – Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday spared the life of death row inmate Kenneth Foster Jr. just hours before he was to be executed for a murder he did not personally commit.
Perry’s decision to commute the death sentence of Foster, the getaway driver in a 1996 botched robbery that ended in a fatal shooting, came after the governor received a rare recommendation to do so from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.
The Republican governor did not address the Texas law that allows an accomplice to be given the death penalty, but 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.” Foster was tried alongside Mauriceo Brown, the man who actually murdered 25-year-old law student Michael LaHood Jr. and was executed last year.
Foster’s scheduled execution Thursday, which would have been Texas’ 403rd since the state renewed capital punishment in 1982, became an international cause celebre for death penalty opponents, who cheered the governor’s decision.
But Perry’s action angered some victims’ rights advocates and LaHood’s friends and relatives.
“We’re surprised and extremely disappointed,” Nico LaHood, a criminal defense attorney, said. “This is not justice for the only real victim here, who was my brother. The bottom line is that I believe the governor folded due to political pressure.”