TEXAS AND THE LAW OF PARTIES

By Kenneth Foster Jr.,

An Innocent Man on Texas Death Row

I am attempting to pull some attention towards an injustice here in Texas. This injustice is called the "law of parties" (LOP). With so many other issues at the forefront of the anti-death penalty movement, this issue has fallen to the back burner. Thatís a shame as it is really a devious issue that is wrongly and unconstitutionally sending men (and women) to death row. Of course, my journey against this issue began when I was wrongly convicted under it. When I sought out attorneys to work on my case, I can only say that God was on my side and I met up with some attorneys that were experienced on this issue. It was then that my litigation became a tool to spearhead us in challenging this LOP statute. I have done everything in my power to bring this statute to light, not just for myself, but also for all the others that it is affecting, and that number seems to be on the rise.

Chapter 7.02 of the TX Penal Code says a person can be criminally responsible for anotherís actions if that person acts with "the intent to promote or assist the commission of the offense" and "solicits, encourages, directs, aids, or attempts to aid the other person to commit the offense, whether the defendant actually caused the death of the deceased or did not actually cause the death of the deceased but intended to kill the deceased or another or anticipated that a human life would be taken". Furthermore, "If, in the attempt to carry out a conspiracy to commit one felony, another felony is committed by one of the conspirators, all conspirators are guilty of the felony actually committed."

In other words, the LOP means that you can be convicted of guilt by association, even if you didnít actually commit the crime, and even if you were not present at the crime scene, if you were involved in the planning or commission of the crime, although you did not know a murder was going to be committed.

I have several goals I am trying to achieve and I am petitioning every person/group in the movement that can help me achieve this:

Bring light to as many wrongful LOP convictions as possible

Petition a group like TX Defender Service to do a study to expose the unconstitutional nature of this law

Seek to have the legislature adjust the fallacies in this statute

This will not be an easy task, but it is achievable. The climate is right as there have been a few victories against wrongful LOP convictions which resulted in death sentence. On a great note, my case was one of those. In March 2005, my death sentence was thrown out on the abuse and misapplication of the LOP. Though the state is appealing this reversal, we feel confident that it will stand. At the same time we are pushing for a new trial, but it will be a difficult fight as one of my issues deals with challenging the whole 7.02 statute and the courts will never want to rule on such an issue which they know may tear down an entire part of their system. I also refuse to give up trying to uncover the full truth in my case. That has never been done and evidence that exonerates me has only been halfway documented. I am resolute on fighting all of the above until the end. There are men on TX death row who have not killed anyone!