Rick Perry Death Watch: Former Army Recruiter Scheduled To Die

Cleve Foster was convicted of a 2002 rape and murder

Cleve Foster
Cleve Foster

Cleve Foster, a Desert Storm veteran turned Army recruiter in Fort Worth, is slated to be the next inmate executed in Texas.

Rick Perry Death Watch: Former Army Recruiter Scheduled To Die

Foster, known as "Sarge," and one of his recruits, Shelton Aaron Ward, were each convicted of the 2002 rape and murder of Sudanese immigrant Nyanuer "Mary" Pal. The two were seen talking to her in a bar shortly before her murder; the three left at the same time, and Foster and Ward followed Pal as she drove off in her car. Pal's body was later found in a ditch by workers laying pipe.

Ward died in prison, reportedly of brain cancer, in 2010. Foster has maintained his innocence, and argued that he had an incompetent trial attorney who failed to present expert testimony supporting his innocence claim – and that his state habeas attorney was also incompetent for failing to raise on appeal the ineffectiveness of his trial counsel. In several statements Ward repeatedly claimed that he alone murdered Pal, but prosecutors have said Ward's statements are inconsistent with the evidence. DNA evidence showed both men had sex with her before her death, but Foster insists he was passed out from sleeping pills and wasn't involved in Pal's killing. Indeed, Foster was tried and sentenced to death not for directly killing Pal, but as a party to the crime. Under Texas law, if a person knows or could have anticipated that a crime would occur, he can be charged as a party to it, even if he has no direct physical connection to the crime or any intent to commit it. (For more on Texas' law of parties, see "Wrong Place, Wrong Time," Feb. 11, 2005.)

Foster had three dates with death in 2011, each stayed while the court considered his appeals, which have each been denied. His case is headed back to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where he will again argue that his state habeas attorney was incompetent for failing to raise the ineffectiveness of his trial attorney; the U.S. Supreme Court, in an unrelated case earlier this year, concluded that this could be grounds for relief. If the 5th Circuit fails to act, Foster's case will head to the Supremes for consideration. His execution is scheduled for Sept. 25.

At press time the Supreme Court had not yet decided whether it will stay the execution of Robert Wayne Harris, who is slated for execution Thursday, Sept. 20. For more on Harris' case see, "Death Row Inmate Hoping for Supreme Intervention," Sept. 14.

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at austinchronicle.com/opinion.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 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  

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 by Jordan Smith
'Chrome Underground' Goes Classic Car Hunting
'Chrome Underground' Goes Classic Car Hunting
Motoreum's Yusuf & Antonio talk about the biz and their reality TV debut

May 22, 2014

APD Brass Shifts Up, Down, Across
APD Brass Shifts Up, Down, Across
Musical chairs at Downtown HQ

May 9, 2014


death penalty, capital punishment, death row, Cleve Foster, Nyanuer Pal, Shelton Aaron Ward, Supreme Court, DNA evidence

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

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