Stop this ‘barbarism cloaked in the black robes of justice’
The countdown for Haramia KiNassor/Kenneth Foster, Jr is in hours now, not days. His execution date is set for tomorrow, Aug. 30, 2007. That is just the day before the state of Texas executed his close comrade, fellow organizer and friend Hasan Shakur last year.
There has been a flurry of media attention and organizing around KiNassor’s case. His support committee, which includes a friend from high school, his grandfather, his wife and his 11-year-old daughter among many others across the globe, have worked tirelessly to profile the impending execution of a man who never pulled the trigger of a gun, never even touched the gun, but simply drove a car.
When you google KiNassor (under his legal name Kenneth Foster, Jr.), you will get over 300 news stories alone, from NBC, ABC, Court TV, the New York Times, dailies in France, the Netherlands, Italy. Major Texas newspapers – including the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, the Dallas Morning News, the Waco Tribune, the San Antonio Express News, the Austin American-Statesman, among others — have run editorials against the execution.
The best friend of the victim in this case, Sean-Paul Kelley, has come out on his blog and supported clemency for KiNassor, stating, “… the execution of a young man who didn’t even kill Mike [LaHood]? That’s not justice. It’s senseless vengeance, a barbarism cloaked in the black robes of justice.” Protests have occurred in New York, Washington, DC, France and Italy, with more planned. Here in Texas, there will be protests today in Austin, TX as well as Livingston, Texas where KiNassor is housed on The Polunsky Unit. There is also a massive protest planned for Huntsville tomorrow, outside of the prison where the actual execution will occur if it comes to that. Supporters had their legal hopes dashed Aug. 6, 2007 when the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals denied KiNassor’s final legal appeal after the Supreme Court denied to review his original case. Left for reprieve is the Board of Pardons and Parole, which is set to respond to the appeal today, where 5 out of the 7 members have to recommend pardon, and then Governor Rick Perry has to approve it. If the Board denies a pardon, Perry has the power to grant a 30 day stay.
Last week, KiNassor’s lawyer Keith Hampton filed an appeal to the Supreme Court asking them to review the lower courts’ handling of the case. There were a number of amicus briefs submitted to support the appeal, one of them on behalf of South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
At the same time, Governor Rick Perry received a letter from former United States President Jimmy Carter, asking him to intervene in this case. These prominent people speaking out, combined with the thousands and thousands of everyday people who are signing the online petition (www.freekenneth.com) sending letters to the Board of Pardons and Paroles, Governor Perry, and legislators (also at the website) is creating a deluge of indignation about this case.
KiNassor has worked to keep the focus larger than himself, though. He was convicted under the Law of Parties, which says that if you could have known or should have known that something was going to happen, you can be given the death penalty. KiNassor is set to be killed because he drove a car, and was involved in a string of robberies that injured no one before they headed home and his friend got out of the car and shot a man with no prior warning, and KiNassor should have known.
But he is really set to be executed because the victim in this case, Michael LaHood, was a white law student, and the son of a prominent San Antonio lawyer, who lobbied politicians and other lawyers and judges, got on television and said that he wanted the death penalty for everyone in the car that night that his son was killed. The man who actually did the shooting Mauriceo Brown, said that he did it alone, and that it was self defense. He was executed last year. The other two in the car rolled over and said whatever the prosecution wanted them to say. They both got life sentences. KiNassor maintained all he did was drive the car, but he refused to “cooperate” with the prosecution. He received the death penalty.
I am in the hotel room now, instead of the death row visiting cages because the administration instituted a new policy this week, ending visiting every day at noon, when it’s supposed to go until 4 p.m. This is because there are three executions scheduled for this week, and the DOC is nervous. They are shook by a death row organization called The DRIVE Movement (www.drivemovement.org) that KiNassor helped to found, that among other things organizes non violent protests against executions from inside the death cells. They have engaged in hunger strikes, their members have refused to walk when their execution time comes, and they encourage other death row prisoners around the country to do the same (a chapter recently opened of women death row prisoners in Pennsylvania). They nonviolently refuse to engage in a system that dehumanizes them and strips them of everything, even the breath in their bodies.
The DOC is terrified that the prisoners, if they are out together and close to the execution time, will all nonviolently protest together, especially since KiNassor, who has been a prominent spokesperson for the organizer, has his date in a handful of hours. Their nonviolent protests take the form of just refusing to leave the visiting cage when visits are over. They “sit in,” which means the prison officials then send in extraction teams to remove them, by force usually.
On one hand, it is a sad thing, a small and mean thing, because visiting is shortened, and KiNassor is only allowed four visitors today and he had to fight to get that. It means that the day before they will kill him, they rob him of even being able to see all of the people who have come to support him and give him their love and strength.
But it is a powerful thing, that these handful of dedicated and fearless folks, who are supposedly completely under the control of the DOC, who are in one of the most secure and highly guarded “bright shining hells”, as Pennsylvania death row prisoner and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal says, that the system has, can scare the powers that be so much, can be such a threat to them. It’s not just about the disruption to the schedule, it’s about the example, for the other death row prisoners, for the prisoners across the state and throughout the nation, and for those of us on the outside, that no matter how much they tell you they have you under control, you can still fight them.
These men on Polunsky Unit are engaged in a war with high casualties, but they continue to fight. Not for themselves, but for us out here. KiNassor’s words have been about continuing the struggle, fighting for other prisoners, fighting against the Law of Parties, the death penalty, the prison system, the system as a whole. In a communication to his supporters from Aug. 22, 2007, he wrote, “Regardless of what happens to me the law of parties still exist. I need you all to realize that I am not the only man on death row sentenced like this and it would be a grand insult to me and my plight if the fight against the law of parties stops with my case… In respect for me and all you have done out there I ask you to keep this battle going.” KiNassor’s message resonates with echoes of Hasan Shakur’s last words in the death chamber: “Tell my people we must continue on. Do not give up the fight. Do not give up hope. We can make it happen!”
All of these prisoners have been and are fighting for us, and the question is, will we step up to support them, to aid them, to make sure they stay in this protracted struggle, or will we allow the state to murder them one by one in cold blood, and if so, how will we ever look one another in the face?
Call or fax:
Those who cannot attend these are encouraged to continue faxing and calling:
Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles:
Phone (512) 406-5852
Fax (512) 467-0945
Gov. Rick Perry:
Phone (512) 463-1782
Fax (512) 463-1849
Austin, Thursday, August 30, 5:00 PM, Governor’s Mansion (Lavaca at
11th) EXECUTION PROTEST AND VIGIL Even in the eleventh hour things could
turn for Kenneth. If you can’t make it to Huntsville, come out to stand
with others against the execution.
Thursday, August 30:
3pm-7pm: Protest the execution of Kenneth Foster Jr outside the Ellis Unit
in Huntsville Texas. Groups from all over the state will converge to stand
against this injustice and demand until the very end that the State of Texas
do the right thing and stop this execution.
THIS CAMPAIGN BADLY NEEDS DONATIONS: Send donations to: Velocity Credit Union, P.O. Box 1089, Austin, Texas 78767, Account name: To Save Kenneth
Foster, Account number: 831766.1