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Family, supporters work round clock to stop execution of Kenneth Foster

Published Aug 30, 2007 12:56 AM

A whirlwind of activities and worldwide media coverage is rapidly organizing support for Kenneth Foster Jr., who is scheduled to be executed on Aug. 30. His family and supporters hope the efforts are enough to stop the killing of this talented writer and political organizer.

Nydesha Foster with her father, Kenneth Foster.
Photo: freekenneth.org

The Save Kenneth Foster Campaign—a coalition of activists and Foster’s extended family—has been working since May 30 to stop the execution of a man who killed no one. Foster was convicted essentially of being the driver of a car who, as the Austin Chronicle stated, was “at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

In the week before the scheduled execution, South African Bishop Desmond Tutu signed a “friend of the court” legal appeal for Foster. Activists held signs denouncing the execution in front of a balcony near Rome where the Pope was speaking.

The campaign has held several high-profile demonstrations and other events in Austin and San Antonio. Most 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 and others—have come out against Foster’s execution. These articles have brought public attention to this egregious case, giving the Board of Pardons and Parole and Gov. Rick Perry every reason to do the right thing.

With just five days left before the scheduled execution, the Foster family traveled to Houston for an Emergency Community Forum on Aug. 25, sponsored by the March to Stop Executions Committee. Tasha Foster spoke first, explaining how difficult it was to leave her spouse after visiting, “with him blowing kisses and mouthing ‘I love you’ and me wondering if it will be the last time I see him.”

Kenneth Foster’s 80-year-old grandfather, who raised him from the age of four, stated, “While I have sympathy for the LaHood family, who lost their son, I have to say that Kenneth did not kill their son and the person who did was already executed. How will killing Kenneth make anything better?”

Foster’s father described how the family is working around the clock, staying up until the wee hours and then getting back to it early in the morning.

Two other parents also spoke about the cruelty that permeates Texas and its criminal injustice system.

Barbara Acuña talked about her son Robert, who was the last juvenile that Harris County sent to death row—despite the fact that officials knew that the U.S. Supreme Court was going to hear the juvenile issue weeks later. Through tears she told the Foster family that she shared her love with them. She also stressed that the people need to take power in this country.

Joyce Guidry, mother of death row prisoner Howard Guidry, also spoke. Howard Guidry was recently retried in Harris County and returned to death row. Joyce Guidry told the rally that her son was considered a political activist by the system, and that “This mama is going to stand by him no matter what!” She told the Foster family, “We are going to continue to fight for Kenneth and continue till we end the whole system of capital punishment.”

Tasha Foster ended the event by performing a song for her spouse called “Walk with Me.” The music video is at www.freekenneth.com.

The next day, Foster’s supporters in Austin demonstrated outside the church Gov. Perry attends. They received wide media coverage and several activists spoke on camera about why Foster should not be executed.

The following day a delegation of abolitionists and Harlem residents visited New York Rep. Charles Rangel and then held a media conference demanding a stop to Foster’s execution, which would be the 400th in Texas.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles is to announce its decision at 1 p.m. on Aug. 29. A demonstration has been called in Austin for 5 p.m. at the governor’s mansion. A rally will take place the same day in Chicago at Federal Plaza.

If there is no stay of execution by Aug. 30, protests will take place across the state of Texas, including one outside the death house in Huntsville, where the execution is set for 6 p.m.

Foster and John Amador, whose scheduled execution is the day before Foster’s, are both on a hunger strike. They have vowed not to cooperate with their executions, including no last meal and refusing to walk to the death chamber.