Huffington Post and Yahoo News: 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.

Kenneth Foster, Jr.: An Innocent Man

Texas Will Soon Execute

Sean-Paul Kelley 2 hours, 44 minutes ago

Get to know this name: Kenneth Foster, Jr. You are going to be hearing a lot of it the next 30 days because I have a personal stake in this matter.

You see, one night in August 1996 one of my best friends, Michael LaHood, was murdered by Mauriceo Brown. And Kenneth Foster, Jr. was driving for Mauriceo that night. I don’t know what the circumstances of Kenneth’s involvement were beyond the fact that he was still in the car when Mauriceo pulled the trigger that sent a bullet through my friend’s brain, ending his life immediately.

Was he being forced to drive? Or was he along for the ride? I don’t care. Kenneth deserves and is receiving punishment for his role in the tragedy that occurred that night. But whatever punishment Kenneth does deserve for his role in my friend’s cruel murder, execution should not ever have been (or be) an option. He did not pull the trigger, or encourage Mr. Brown to pull it in any way, nor was he even aware that the murder was being contemplated or had been committed until after the fact. His punishment should not be execution.

But we are in Texas and in Texas, barbaric laws prevail, like something out of Beowulf or the Old Testament or Reservoir Dogs — one of the very few movies I could not watch to the end for its unspeakable cruelty. Never mind that we are in the 21 st century. Never mind that we are supposed to be modern.

I miss Michael, my dear friend, whom I nicknamed ‘Chainsaw.’ He was a big, musclebound, softhearted jabber-mouth, always talking and always cracking jokes. Mike was full of life. And although he was a body builder I never saw him angry and I never saw him so much as hurt anyone. His joy was infectious — everyone wanted to hang out with Mike and the ladies loved him, although he didn’t quite have the confidence to take advantage of it (yet). Why he chose a long-haired, poetry writing, guitar playing miscreant and reformed pothead/high school dropout like myself I will never know. But I loved him dearly. The only time I ever cheated in college or university was for Mike. He hated poetry and asked if he could use one of my poems for his Freshman Comp? How could I say no?

I still remember eating chicken fried steak with him and D-Day — the third and most successful leg of our triumviral friendship — at Maggies at 3:00am after clubbing, back when the three of us attended the local junior college, were obsessed with the opposite sex but too stupid to realize they were just as obsessed with us as we were with them. God, how I’d give anything to have him back. Thinking of him brings a tear to my eyes even now. What makes it worse is that I’d returned from living out of the country a few months before he was killed. A new career kept me busy. We kept postponing getting together. My last words to Mike — two weeks before he was murdered — were a cliché for all clichés: “We’ll do it next weekend, buddy, we’ve got all the time in the world.” I couldn’t hear the clock ticking. I wish I’d listened closer.

And for that I hated Mauriceo and his gang even more, and for a long time. But 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.

Never knowing that a friend of one of the men involved in Mike’s murder might reach out to me for help I wrote this two years ago about the death penalty:

Whenever people ask me about the death penalty I always reply: when you make it to the Pearly Gates, and Saint Peter asks, “justice or mercy?” Which will you choose?
Usually they sputter or blurt something out like, “The death penalty doesn’t have anything to do with that.” I reply, “The death penalty has everything to do with that. You just can’t see it.”

Then they say, “What if it happened to someone you know.” And I reply, “In 1996 one of my best friends, Michael LaHood was murdered. And I don’t want his killer to die. I want his killer to repent. And then spend the rest of his life in prison helping other prisoners with less onerous sentences to see the light.”

That’s when they say, “You’re a softy, wishy-washy feel-good, self-helping liberal wimp.” By that time its too late to ask them, “What requires more courage: revenge or forgiveness?”

I prefer mercy, wimp or not.

Kenneth did not ask for my help and he’s already accepted his fate. Someone he helped asked me to help him. I cannot live with myself if I don’t try. Wimp or not.

He is scheduled to be executed on the 30th of August.

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2 thoughts on “Huffington Post and Yahoo News: 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.

  1. Mr. Kelley, you are an opponent of capital punishment and I am a proponent. It is a vital and necessary course of action; because of this
    Julius Steen turned state witness and my precious Michael received justice; Mr. Jim Beam also
    received justice (Steen and Dillard were also involved in his death). My heartfelt sympathy for the Foster family, but they are not portraying an accurate account of the facts. Last year Brown claimed innocence and wanted DNA testing; now Foster admits Brown murdered my pre-cious son. In ’94 Foster shot 2 brothers and one nearly died; he received deferred adjudication. He
    was given an opportunity to be a productive citi-
    zen, but he CHOSE to continue a life of crime as a
    member of the Black Gangster Disciples. They robbed several individuals that night, as well as
    on previous nights. I challenge you to speak to our D.A. and get the true facts and and if you still feel that he is completely innocent, then it
    is on you. I support the death penalty; without it innocent victims such as my wonderful and loving son would not have received justice and
    these individuals would not have been held accountable. If we live in a violent society now,I
    hate to think of what it would be w/o capital punishment. Criminals would have a field day, for
    they would have nothing to lose, only victims like
    my precious and loving son. I urge you Mr. Kelley to seek out the truth and answers to your
    question regarding the Law of Parties etc. We are upset by the false information and lies being circulated,but not surprised, because they will say and do whatever it takes to save his life, as in Brown’s case, but it is frustrating that we are not afforded the opportunity to set the record straight. The Lord forgives those who truly repent and seek forgiveness, but we must still suffer the consequences and be held account-able. I have prayed all along for all parties involved that night and their families, that they
    draw near to the Lord and I continue to do so. I have peace because I know without a doubt that my
    Michael is in the presence of the Lord. I have peace because I have turned these individuals over to the Lord,praying for their salvation and I have peace because I pray that the Lord’s divine knowledge, wisdom and discernment descend upon the members of the board and the governor for God’s will to be done regarding Foster’s fate.
    I have peace because I know that God is in control
    and may He grant us all the faith and grace to
    act upon it.
    Mr. Kelley, do not desecrate my son’s memory. You are not his friend, you are a Judas.It is one thing to oppose capital punishment, that is your choice, but by blindly and ignorantly supporting the person who was involved in the brutal and senseless murder of my loving and wonderful son, you fired a hollow point .44 caliber bullet to my face, just below the middle of my left eye; it entered the cranial cavity through the bone at the base of my skull, went through the brain stem, and exited the cranial vault in the back of my head where it lodged under my scalp,the bullet caused a huge fracture to the base of my skull and obliterated my brain stem.

  2. We in the Save Kenneth Foster Campaign are truly sorry for your loss and empathize with your pain. I know that if my daughter were killed I’d probably lose it forever. I would not want to see her killer executed, much less someone who was only present at a distance from the crime.

    Respectfully, we believe that Kenneth may have deserved punishment for armed robbery but the death sentence does not apply to that crime. The fact is, he did not have any foreknowledge of or participation in Michael’s murder. We can’t go around executing people because they were guilty of just anything. (I don’t think we should execute anyone at all.) No one is claiming that Kenneth is squeaky clean. Only that he did not kill Michael LaHood. Furthermore, Kenneth has grown up–against all odds–under 23-hour lockdown on death row. He has become a thoughtful, well-educated, articulate, mature man. He has expressed remorse for Michael’s death even though he had nothing to do with it. His family has made private gestures toward the LaHood family of sympathy and regret.

    Mrs. LaHood was on kxan news two nights ago–she admitted in her interview that Kenneth did not kill Michael, and that executing Kenneth would not provide closure.

    What more is there to say? Kenneth did not kill Michael and thus should not be executed. Capital punishment–flawed and barbaric as it is–is supposed to be reserved for murderers. His death will not bring closure, which is the only reason families seek retribution of this kind.

    This way of looking at it is no distortion of the facts. We feel for you and understand your pain. Let’s not compound it by making another family suffer it.

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