House Tweaks Death Penalty Law

On the Lege

Texas reps on May 15 passed House Bill 2267, the aptly retitled Kenneth Foster Jr. Act. The measure would block prosecutors from seeking the death penalty for defendants tried under the so-called "law of parties," which allows a co-defendant with only a tangential involvement in a crime to be eligible for the ultimate penalty because they should have foreseen that the crime had a possibly deadly outcome. Critics of the law have long said that the law of parties unconstitutionally expands the pool of death-eligible defendants. Texas' use of the law of parties in the case of Kenneth Foster, convicted for the 1996 death of Michael LaHood, earned international attention; Foster was scheduled to die in 2007, but he was spared after Gov. Rick Perry accepted the recommendation of the Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute his sentence to life in prison (see "Wrong Place, Wrong Time," Feb. 11, 2005). Perry did not mention the law of parties in his commutation announcement but did say he was concerned about capital defendants being tried together and that lawmakers should address the issue. The House bill passed last week, authored by Rep. Terri Hodge, D-Dallas, does just that, banning a court from joining capital defendants in a trial.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
MORE Death Penalty
Death Watch: Madness and Forensics
Death Watch: Madness and Forensics
Two capital cases raise psychological and evidentiary issues

Jordan Smith, Oct. 4, 2013

Death Watch: Running Low on Poison
Death Watch: Running Low on Poison
The state of Texas has three executions' worth of pentobarbitol

Jordan Smith, Aug. 9, 2013

More On the Lege
Lege Lines: Stretching Toward a Sunset
Lege Lines: Stretching Toward a Sunset
Don’t praise the Senate GOP for working quickly to pass what’s needed

Mary Tuma, July 21, 2017

Lege Lines
Lege Lines
Sine die at last, transportation, water, and more

Richard Whittaker, Aug. 9, 2013

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

death penalty, HB 2267, Kenneth Foster, Terri Hodge, 81st Legislature, law of parties

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle