Friday, August 31, 2007

Texas Governor Commutes Death Sentence

Well this was unexpected...

From the AP:

Texas governor spares getaway driver

Gov. Rick Perry, longtime head of the nation's busiest death penalty state, spared an inmate Thursday hours before he was to have been executed for being a killer's getaway driver.

Perry issued the commutation order on a parole board's rare recommendation about seven hours before Kenneth Foster was to have been put to death — the narrowest gap by which he has halted an execution in his more than eight years in office.

Thursday's vote marked only the second time since Texas resumed carrying out executions in 1982 that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles endorsed stopping an execution with so little time remaining. And in that 2004 case, Perry rejected the board's recommendation and the prisoner, who had been diagnosed as mentally ill, was executed.

This time, Perry agreed with the board's recommendation that Foster be saved from lethal injection.

Foster, 30, learned of Thursday's board vote during a morning visit with his father. A warden told him of the governor's commutation about an hour later.

"The first thing I did was drop to my knees and say a little prayer," he said as he was being taken from the Huntsville prison unit where executions are carried out for a return trip to the prison that houses death row. "I owe a lot of people."

Death penalty opponents had launched a public-relations campaign to save Foster because they objected to Texas's so-called law of parties, a unique statute in which each participant of a capital crime is held equally responsible. In any other state, the person who actually killed another person might be eligible for execution, but the driver or other participants might not be. more

I think Gov. Perry did the right thing here. The death penalty is supposed to be reserved for those that commit the most heinous of crimes and to me this clearly doesn't meet that standard. The fact that Foster had exhausted his appeals and the sentence had to be commuted points to exactly how broken Texas' death penalty laws are. Additionally with only 2% of murderers getting the death penalty in Texas (according to a San Antonio Express News article from last week that I can't find) it seems that either the laws are applied inconsistently or that one gets the best justice one can afford.

I can understand a state wanting to be tough on crime but ultimately its more important to be fair. Somehow somewhere the powers that be in The Lone Star State seem to have forgotten that fact. Its good that Gov. Perry remembered. Even if it was at the last minute.