« FAMM alert about the USSC's crack amendments | Main | Third Circuit reverses another downward variance »

August 30, 2007

Texas Governor commutes death sentence

As covered here and here at StandDown Texas Project, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted today to recommend that Texas Governor Rick Perry commute Kenneth Foster's death sentence to life, and Governor Perry has now announced he has commuted Foster's death sentence.  Governor Perry's statement is available at this link, and here is a snippet:

"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,” Gov. Perry 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." The TBPP voted 6-1 to recommend commutation, and the governor signed the commutation papers Thursday morning.

August 30, 2007 at 01:34 PM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Texas Governor commutes death sentence:


Holy shit! That almost never happens. I wonder which has been more common since the Texas Republic was founded: prison breaks from death row, or commutations?

Posted by: ohwilleke | Aug 30, 2007 2:19:46 PM

There must be damn northerners moving into Texas.

Posted by: S.cotus | Aug 30, 2007 2:20:57 PM

What cowardice.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 30, 2007 2:23:02 PM

Federalist, who, exactly, is the governor of Texas afraid of?

Posted by: Anon | Aug 30, 2007 2:34:41 PM

Federalist, You should try and get the "Kill First and Ask Questions Later Act of 2007" act passed.

Posted by: S.cotus | Aug 30, 2007 2:35:01 PM

Oh gee, an accomplice drives around an armed robber jacking people, and there's an issue about whether the driver was putting people at risk of death, c'mon. If you don't like the death penalty fine, but this case COMFORTABLY falls within the Texas statute.

Perry is likely trying to show that he has a heart and that he's a good guy--kinda like the "Greenhouse Effect". It's a failure of moral courage. I'm sure Mr. and Mrs. LaHood are enthralled with this unprincipled decision. Kindness to the cruel is cruelty to the kind. Hopefully Gov. Perry will learn this lesson.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 30, 2007 2:39:18 PM

Or, a better way of summing it up, Perry went "wobbly" on this one.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 30, 2007 2:40:27 PM

Yeah, it takes so much courage to sit in a plush office and order someone strapped down and killed. That is so moral.

Strangely, Sen. Kerry who was a swashbuckling Navy guy who seems to have not a fearful bone in his body is called a coward by the Texans. But, I guess this has something to do with Texas’ culture of criminality, which I will never understand.

Posted by: S.cotus | Aug 30, 2007 2:56:41 PM

S.cotus, Perry doesn't order the executions--get that part right. And yes it is moral to allow justice to be done. Kenneth Foster didn't deserve this misplaced mercy. I wonder if Perry and the abolitionist types in Texas (few that there are) are going to get together to sing "Kumbaya".

Senator Kerry, while not a coward, didn't cover himself with glory by gaming the system that allowed thrice wounded folks to leave Vietnam. I was a naval officer, and I hope that I would have set a better example for the men American military officers are privileged to lead. One never knows of course what one would do. But Audie Murphy John Kerry ain't. Moreover, Kerry's post-war actions were despicable.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 30, 2007 3:10:37 PM

I don’t really know if anyone is saying that anyone deserves “mercy.” In the statements posted here, nobody mentions mercy, so I think that you might either making it up, reading into things, or just assuming that any time someone does not get killed it is an act of mercy.

The governor has the choice as to whether or not to grant one reprieve or not.

I did not vote for him, but Kerry is an American hero, and there is no equal to him. But, if I was running against him, you can bet I would find any way to malign his character in any way possible. I would probably even say that he was never in the Navy because the ends would justify the means. Of course it would be lies, but when a greater honor and glory are at stake, it is better to lie about things then to actually respect other people. Anyway, I hope you post a list of all Navy Veterans that “gamed” the system and left Vietnam with injuries that you don’t consider to be major enough. I want the complete list of your fellow sailors that you think are cowards.

Posted by: S.cotus | Aug 30, 2007 3:24:21 PM

"Kindness to the cruel is cruelty to the kind."

Did Jesus say that? No, it's in the Talmud. Something I know nothing about so hopefully someone will enlighten us. However, Google does shed a little light on the subject.

Judges who pronounced the death sentence too frequently were stigmatized as shedders of blood (Mak. 7a), and this in spite of the conviction that "misapplied clemency leads to unjustifiable cruelty" (Lam. R. vii. 16).

From the same page:

In rabbinical Judaism the idea of "cruelty" includes also an unforgiving temper. It thus came to signify what has been termed "the cruelty of civilized men" (Lazarus, "Ethik des Judentums," i. 308), such as calumny, slander, putting to shame, calling men by nicknames, slighting their honor. Characteristic of the one not cruel was the readiness to "forego one's due" (), and this disposition is deemed essential to the attainment of forgiveness of one's own sins (Yoma 23a). One that in public puts a man to shame is likened to the murderer (B. M. 58b, 59a). One that will not forgive his fellow is cruel: (B. Ḳ. 92a; see also Maimonides, "Yad," De'ot, vi. 6; Teshubah, ii. 10). Nimrod, Goliath, Haman, Cain, and others are remembered as examples of cruelty (Pesiḳ. ix. 78b). (bold emphasis added)

Posted by: George | Aug 30, 2007 4:00:11 PM

Anybody have the text of the BPP recommendation?

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Aug 30, 2007 4:10:15 PM

S.cotus: there are plenty of Texans who disliked Kerry because he was a boring sycophantic party hack lacking any coherent plan with all the charisma of a actuarial accountant... not just because he was a yellow, lyin' coward.

Posted by: dweedle | Aug 30, 2007 4:11:47 PM

The issue, S.cotus, is that having taken an oath as a military officer and having exercised the privilege of leading American fighting men, I would hope that if I were lightly wounded in combat in the manner that Senator Kerry was, I would not claim my right to leave the theater. Perhaps I would have, who knows, I don't claim to be perfect, but I certainly would not want my children to know, and it would be difficult, nay impossible, to look at men who were grievously wounded in the eye. How could I look their families in the eye? I would have been ashamed, and I wouldn't want to have to look myself in the mirror afterwards. Perhaps, that's something difficult for someone like you to understand.

I understand how easy it is to say these things. It is.

I wonder if Perry had the common decency to call the LaHood family.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 30, 2007 4:15:06 PM

Why would anyone want to get a “family” involved in this? The choice of whether to kill someone lies with the state. The can choose not to kill anyone for any reason it wants.

I scoured all of Kerry’s writings and statements and nowhere does he claim to be perfect.

And I am sure that you would do your utmost to stay in Vietnam as long as possible.

As to what Texans think, we both agree that they are a state full of criminals. Therefore, there is absolutely no reason to trust their preferred explanations of why they don’t like Kerry. You just can’t trust a Texan. Maybe an Alaskan. Not a Texan.

I like to talk about “honor” and “duty,” too. They are wonderful pieces of rhetoric that can mean anything. Just like “family values” and all those cute little things that the citizenry like to hear about.

Posted by: S.cotus | Aug 30, 2007 4:21:12 PM

The person who calls himself the Supreme Court of the United States writes, "In the statements posted here, nobody mentions mercy, so I think that you might either making it up, reading into things, or just assuming that any time someone does not get killed it is an act of mercy."

If we could have a general agreement here that people commenting on others' comments will not make up, read in, or assume things the other did not say, the quality of discourse here would be greatly improved. However, I will not hold my breath.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Aug 30, 2007 4:22:11 PM

I wasn't referring to people writing on the blog, but rather statements by public officials or litigants in the instant case.

Posted by: S.cotus | Aug 30, 2007 4:59:05 PM

Federalist, you called the decision to commute "cowardly." But in several posts, despite being asked, you still haven't identified of who or what the twice-elected Republican governor of the most pro-death penalty state in the country was so scared of that he felt the need to commute this man's sentence.

Posted by: Anon | Aug 30, 2007 5:12:39 PM

Correction: federalist said that the governor showed "cowardice." The question still stands.

Posted by: Anon | Aug 30, 2007 5:15:46 PM

Perhaps, anon, if you read my posts in toto, you would grasp what I am saying. Perry was not "scared" of anything. Rather, he chose to go "wobbly" and took the easy way out. Courage is more than simply raw physical courage--there's a thing called moral courage. Perry here chose to minimize Foster's role ("merely" the driver) and chose to infantilize the jury, as if they couldn't figure out the difference between a triggerman and a non-triggerman. I feel that Perry failed the test here, and I think that reflects poorly on him.

Perhaps Mr. Perry had the guts to at least try to contact the LaHoods. If he did, I'd have a little more respect for him. At the end of the day, Mr. Perry chose to seek the approval of those who insult Texas' justice system on a daily basis.

So, anon, does that answer your question?

Posted by: federalist | Aug 30, 2007 5:27:54 PM

Federalist: I disagree that Perry took the easy way out on this one. The easy thing to do would be to simply ignore all the requests for commutation that pass over the Governor's desk like GWB and his toadie Gonzalez did (and yes, I know that the Board ultimately has all the power in Austin over commutations).

Governor Goodhair definitely doesn't win any popularity contests by sparing a criminal. Hopefully he'll redeem hisself by barring that notorious prevert Larry Craig from ever darkening the Lone Star State with his presence.

Though... there are very persistent rumors about Governor Goodhair and a very familiar Republican penchant for, ahem, secret readings of De Profundis... in public restrooms.

Posted by: dweedle | Aug 30, 2007 5:52:07 PM

According to the AP's report, Goodhair didn't even have the guts to call the victims' familiy. At least Michael Dukakis had the guts to actually defend his furlough policy with crime victims' families.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 30, 2007 6:28:58 PM

anonymous commenters taking things personally is more than a little pathetic.

Does anyone have the TBPP clemency recommendation? I found it interesting that the article reports that the TBPP voted 6-to-1 in favor of clemency.

Their website doesn't seem to post these things, and Gov. Perry's website has only the press release

Posted by: | Aug 30, 2007 7:40:44 PM

Which shows more moral courage? Sitting passively while a man dies, and allowing it to happen because it is the popular result in your state, or acting to do what you think is right, even though you'll be flayed for it. I'd say the latter.

Posted by: Anon | Aug 30, 2007 10:14:05 PM

Which shows more moral courage? Sitting passively while a man dies, and allowing it to happen because it is the popular result in your state, or acting to do what you think is right, even though you'll be flayed for it. I'd say the latter.

One could easily say that the "popular" choice (i.e. that favored by the people whose opinions Gov. Perry cares about) is what Gov. Perry did, and what he "thought was right" is to let the guy die.

No one knows what Gov. Perry "thinks is right," nor do they know whose opinions he cares about, so this whole discussion of moral courage is stupid.

Go find the TBPP report.

Posted by: | Aug 30, 2007 10:24:36 PM

There is no reason to call a family, and, quite frankly, it is inappropriate. They are not involved in the killing of this guy, so they really do not have a legally cognizable stake. It would be a silly, crass, political move to call some family.

Or, how about this... maybe every time a governor does anything, he can call all the families involved. Maybe he could call the defendant’s family and laugh at them and tell them how their child is going to be killed by a state employee. Or why not have the executioner personally describe what he is going to do to their child?

While I don’t know why the governor of Texas did what he did, I applaud his truly American courage in not calling some guy’s family.

Posted by: S.cotus | Aug 31, 2007 10:13:51 AM

I would posit that Gov Goodhair is trying to deflect his decisions in the handling of the Willingham case. He is the ultimate pol and does whatever is politically correct when it comes to getting elected. Willingham involved children, occurred in a non-metro area, had lots of publicity and yet he managed to defer the investigation until after he was reelected. This case gives him the opportunity of saying, "See, I don't always ignore the TBPP; I'm running for president so I will show the country I can be reasonable." Yeah right! Foster should thank his lucky stars his case was reviewed while Perry was running a national race. (No, I don't vote for Perry) [citizen, follower of Grits for Breakfast]

Posted by: Texas Maverick | Sep 5, 2011 11:07:17 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB