Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Ike in Memphis pt. 2

As you read on Monday, last Thursday I was in Memphis, Tennessee organizing around our Student Conference on the Death Penalty (October 6th, MTSU campus).

Dinner time had rolled around and the Memphis heat continued to resonate. In fact, I recall the sun setting around 8 p.m. (maybe later?) and I reminisced the long summers I grew up with in the woodlands of Northern Virginia. At this point, I was eager to change out of my sweaty polo and khaki combination (the organizer combo as I like to call it); solace awaited me at the Emmanuel House Community. Here is their mission statement:

“Emmanuel House Community is a residential community in the Catholic Worker tradition. We seek to give each other mutual support in a life of discipleship and service. We share a life given to simplicity, reflection, prayer, nonviolence, and work that supports human dignity. Current activities include: Prayerful reflection four times a week, Weekly demonstrations for peace and the abolition of the death penalty volunteer work with ministries for the homeless, Maintenance of the Liberation Closet, a collection of clothing and shoes for use by indigent defendants appearing in court, Hospitality for visiting activists, people in need and peace and justice groups, Preaching and teaching at local churches and organic gardening on a small scale.”

The mission statement should also include: “You will live with two very cool people in one of the neatest houses (apartment on apartment technically) in Memphis.” Pete Gathje and Jenny Case of the Memphis TCASK Chapter reside in and run the house and are seriously, two of the coolest people I have ever met. Besides the fact that they are intellectual giants, they are warm and kind and exude what I can only describe as grace.

We had dinner at a local Vietnamese restaurant with some other Memphis TCASK activists. Conversation wavered between the city of Memphis, travel, relatives, soccer, Asian beers, and one of my favorite topic matters—geography. Because I won my 5th, 6th, and 7th geography bees (I lost my 8th grade one to my younger sister) I have a bank of geography knowledge. The primary utility of this knowledge is to show how awesomely smart I am—or to show that I would do well on a game show. After dinner, Pete and I discussed some of the schools that I could conduct outreach for the student conference and my excitement grew at the prospect of bringing even more young activists to Murfreesboro in October. I still have much unfinished business in Memphis, TCASK and non-TCASK related and I eagerly look forward to my next visit to the Bluff City.

Comments :
Urge Texas Legislators to Pressure Governor Perry to Stop Kenneth Foster, Jr's Execution

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has denied the appeal of Kenneth Foster Jr, even though three of its members say he may be innocent (every judge on the CCA is a Republican).

The decision to stop the execution of Foster, who everyone agrees did not kill anyone, now lies in the hands of Governor Perry and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. But the members of the Texas Legislature also have a responsibility to speak out too even though they have no power to stop the execution except by urging the Governor and BPP to act. The reason legislators need to speak out is because it was an Act that they passed that the Court of Criminal Appeals majority relied on to brush off Foster's claim of innocence. It is time for the Texas Legislature to tell Gov Perry to stop this execution.

Foster was just the driver of a car out of which another occupant (Mauriceo Brown) got out and killed someone 80 feet away from the car. New evidence supports Foster's defense that he did not know that Brown intended to kill someone. But the majority of the CCA does not think it should take into account this new evidence.

According to an email from Foster's lawyer, the reason the CCA majority thinks they can ignore this new evidence is because of a law passed by the Texas Legislature in 1995, which forbids "the judges of the Court of Criminal Appeals from considering new evidence in death penalty cases, even if the judges unanimously believed the new evidence would spare a life. This Act, passed in 1995, prevents judges from giving relief to people who they believe are not to be subjected to death."

Here is the dissenting opinion in the Kenneth Foster, Jr case, written by Judge Tom Price of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and joined by two other judges, Judge Charles Holcomb and Judge Cheryl Johnson. These three judges agree that "the applicant has identified new facts that might support a bare claim of actual innocence, under Ex parte Elizondo, (3) and would therefore allow the applicant to proceed on his fourth claim for relief". They would have granted him a stay of execution "to allow him to pursue this claim through the ordinary course of habeas corpus proceedings."

They further write that "Applicant now alleges that, since his direct appeal and even since he filed his initial application for writ of habeas corpus, he has had an opportunity to interview both Steen and the other surviving co-conspirator, Dillard. Both have given affidavits in which they assert, in essence, that by the time Brown got out of the car to rob LaHood, the conspiracy had run its course, at least as far as the other three were concerned, and Brown was acting out of an independent impulse. If these assertions are true, it appears evident that the applicant could not be guilty of capital murder under either of the theories of the law of parties that were submitted to the jury."

Unfortunately, the five judges writing in the majority, including Judge Sharon Keller, did not agree with the three dissenting judges and voted to execute Foster.

Judge Barbara Parker Hervey did not participate in either the majority or the dissenting opinion.

The final vote then was 5-3-1 in favor of execution.

More info about Kenneth's situation:
Foster drives a car around town knowing that he's transporting an armed man looking for people to rob. Someone winds up dead. And Foster is "innocent". What a f-ing joke. This independent impulse idea is just nonsense.
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