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Where are the anti-death penalty candidates?

I want to commend Governor Perry for abiding by the 6-1 recommendation from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and commuting the sentence of Kenneth Foster Jr. yesterday. From the Chron:

For only the third time since he’s been in office, Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday commuted the death sentence of a Texas inmate to life imprisonment following a recommendation from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

The move by the governor came about an hour after the equally rare recommendation, on the same day that Kenneth Foster Jr., 30, was scheduled to die for the 1996 slaying of Michael LaHood Jr., 25, the son of a San Antonio attorney.

Invoking a statute known as the law of parties, prosecutors had argued that Foster — the getaway driver during an August 1996 robbery spree — conspired with his friend, Mauriceo Brown, to rob LaHood and therefore was culpable for his murder, even if he did not intend to kill the victim. A jury agreed and sentenced Foster to death, finding he actually anticipated the murder.

The jury also found that Foster, a gang member, was a future threat to society.

The case had drawn international attention in recent weeks, inspiring protests and letters urging the U.S. Supreme Court, the governor and the parole board to spare Foster’s life because he did not participate in the killing.

The story did get a lot of press, as the Chron mentioned, and I think Gov. Perry made the right decision. The death penalty isn’t usually a hot campaign issue since a majority of Americans favor it, but it does rile up the large minority that opposes it. From the Death Penalty Information Center, I got the statistics on who supports the death penalty. For all of these demographics, except African-Americans, the only difference is how strong the support is. But with only 58% of Democrats and 44% of African-Americans in favor, I think there’s room for a serious candidate who takes a strong anti-death penalty stance.

But here’s what our frontrunners sound like. Barack Obama in 2002:

We certainly don’t think that we should be… have this laundry list that does not make any distinctions between the run-of-the-mill armed robbery that results in death, and systematic killings by a terrorist organization. And I think essentially what the reduction of aggravating factors does is it says, “Here’s a narrower set of crimes that we think potentially at least could deserve the death penalty.”

But here’s Dennis Kucinich in 2004:

The imposition of the death penalty is both racially and economically biased. African American defendants are more likely to receive death sentences than others who committed similar crimes. Ninety-eight percent of all defendants sentenced to death could not afford their own attorney.

It’s too bad that the only candidate for 2008 who really does take an anti-death penalty stance is mostly just fodder for late night talk show jokes. Maybe Kucinich hanging around or the press that Perry got will help to move this debate back into the mainstream and cause people to rethink their positions while I’m still young and idealistic.

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  1. Aakash says:

    Republican presidential candidate John Cox opposes the death penalty.

  2. Charles Hixon says:

    perry must have finally scored his very own death row marv action figure

  3. Joe says:

    I guess be careful what you wish for:

    [Kinky] Friedman said that if he goes forward with plans to enter the 2010 [Democratic] primary, he wouldn’t become a captive to the Democrats’ dogma. He’ll call for an abolition of the death penalty in Texas, which has led the nation in executions for more than 20 years under both Democratic and Republican governors.

    “I’m going to push that issue because it’s one that I know no one will try to steal from me,” he said.