In Rare Move, Texas Gov. Commutes Inmate's Death Sentence

Foster was to die today for murder, even though he never pulled the trigger.

Aug. 30, 2007 -- Kenneth Foster, the man sentenced to die this evening even though he did not pull the trigger that killed Michael LaHood Jr. in 1996, was spared today by Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

"After carefully considering the facts of this case, along with the recommendations from the Board of Pardons and Paroles, I believe the right and just decision is to commute Foster's sentence from the death penalty to life imprisonment," Perry said in a statement. "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 will now only serve a life sentence. A spokeswoman for the Governor said that Foster will be eligible for parole beginning in 2036. He had been tried for the murder alongside Mauriceo Brown, who shot LaHood after attempting to rob him. Brown was executed for the murder last year.

Perry's decision came about an hour after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 6-1 to recommend that Perry commute the sentence.

Foster was set to be executed for LaHood's murder. He did not actually pull the trigger that killed the man, but was convicted under a Texas law that makes an accomplice to murder subject to the death penalty.

Hampton had told earlier this month that he was not hopeful that Foster's appeal would be granted. "The odds are extremely low," he said then.

Foster's wife, Tasha Narez-Foster, was breathless and ecstatic after she heard news that clemency was granted.

"As soon as I realized what was happening I was crying….I just just crying and now everything is going to be fine," Narez-Foster told "Right now we're just going to buy a bottle of champagne, open it up, and celebrate."

Though she has not talked to Foster since news of Perry's clemency was handed down, she was with him when he heard that the Board of Pardons and Paroles had recommended clemency.

"Kenneth, his head fell to the table, he was hiding his head in his hands. It was just, oh – I cannot begin to express what we're feeling right now," she exclaimed.

Foster was on death row today stemming from an incident in the early morning of Aug. 15, 1996. Foster, who was 19 at the time, had been driving around drunk and high on marijuana with three friends, committing armed robberies. At about 2 a.m., Foster's passenger, Mauriceo Brown, jumped out of the car, approached LaHood as he stood with his girlfriend, and tried to rob him. With Foster sitting in the car about 80 feet away, Brown shot and killed LaHood.

Foster has testified that he did not know that Brown -- who was executed last year -- was going to kill LaHood. Foster and Brown were tried together, and prosecutors charged that Foster, as an accomplice, could be held capitally liable under Texas' "law of parties."

"He was guilty. He was driving that car, he helped set that up, he was reaping the rewards. It was all of them working together on it," Susan Reed, the district attorney of Bexar County, where the case was prosecuted, told earlier this month.

Hampton agrees that Foster should be held liable for the crimes he did commit that evening. But he maintains that executing someone who was at the scene of a murder based on what they were thinking -- specifically, whether Foster knew a murder was going to occur -- is a miscarriage of justice.

Texas is the only state in the country where a person may be executed if a murder he or she did not anticipate or plan occurs during the course of another crime they committed, Hampton said.

Foster's wife, Narez-Foster, said this morning, before the pardon had been handed down, that her husband is "in very high spirits." She said she would see Kenneth in the afternoon, and that they were hopeful he would win his appeal.

"He said that he is very hopeful. He's thinking that everything is looking good. He is absolutely not sad. He's doing alright so far," Narez-Foster, sounding calm and composed, said today.

In an interview with The Associated Press before the pardon was handed down today, Foster -- who has become a poet and activist since entering prison, in addition to getting married earlier this year -- said that his actions that night were reprehensible. But Foster has maintained that he does not deserve to die for his actions.

"It was wrong," Foster told the AP. "I don't want to downplay that. I was wrong for that. I was too much of a follower. I'm straight up about that."