Second Thought: Wednesday, August 29, 2007
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Guilt By Association


Kenneth Foster Jr. didn’t kill anyone, but he’s headed to Texas’ death chamber nonetheless.

By JOHN ARAUJO

While it’s painful to read about the sorts of barbaric executions performed throughout history, it’s also important to remember that those were unenlightened times. In other words, we are judging the actions of the past by today’s standards. That doesn’t make what our ancestors did right. But we must realize that they didn’t define humanity the way we do today.
Beheadings, disemboweling, crucifixion — the executions of the past seem so horrifically misguided now, and yet they served a clear purpose: to set a public example. The more suffering that the condemned endured in the process, the reasoning went, the better the example.
Nowadays, executions are done mostly by lethal injection, which we are told is more humane. They also are generally performed in view of only a few witnesses, not the entire community, perhaps because our society now feels the need to hide, to some degree, what is being done. Humane or not, we are still basically talking about killing someone.
In that case, how much have we really changed?
Texas leads the United States in executions performed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1974. We’re closing in on the 400 mark, and, barring action by Gov. Rick Perry, the execution of Kenneth Foster Jr., scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday), will put us one closer.
Foster’s crime is not that he murdered anyone but that he was an onlooker in a group that committed a murder. Texas’ “law of parties” means that if one member of a group of people commits a felony, then, in the eyes of the law, all members of the group are considered guilty. Other states have such laws, but Texas is the only one that uses it to apply the death penalty.
Foster did not murder Michael LaHood in 1996. The murder was committed by Mauriceo Brown, who has already been executed for the crime. The two other members of the group were not charged with the murder, but they are serving lengthy sentences for other crimes — as is Foster, for that matter. If he is given a stay of execution, he won’t go free. He will serve out the rest of his sentence, and justice will be served.
The old methods of execution reflected our unenlightened, primal need for more blood beyond what a crime called for. And yet what can we call an execution of someone whose only crime was cowardice and when the bloodthirsty perpetrator, the real threat to society, has already been executed? Putting Foster to death is not doing anyone any good. And how much less barbaric are we than those beheaders and disembowlers when we allow this to be done in our name?
Gov. Perry, you’ve already demonstrated many times over that you’re “tough on crime.” Now it’s time for you to show us that you also have the toughness to stop the execution of Kenneth Foster Jr.

John P. Araujo is a freelance writer from Fort Worth. He can be reached at johnartwords@yahoo.com.


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