Marion Brothers

Marion Brothers

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Justice or Mercy

Sean-Paul Kelley’s friend was shot and killed in a 1996 robbery. In December 2006, he wrote an article entitled, “Justice or Mercy” (reprinted below).

“Whenever people ask me about the death penalty I always reply: when you make it to the Pearly Gates, and Saint Peter asks, “justice or mercy”? Which will you choose?”

Usually they sputter or blurt something out like, “the death penalty doesn't have anything to do with that.” I reply, "The death penalty has everything to do with that. You just can't see it.”

Then they say, “what if it happened to someone you know.” And I reply, “In 1996 one of my best friends, Michael LaHood was murdered. And I don't want his killer to die. I want his killer to repent. And then spend the rest of his life in prison helping other prisoners with less onerous sentences to see the light.”

That's when they say, "you're a softy, wishy-washy feel-good, self-helping liberal wimp." By that time its too late to ask them, "what requires more courage: revenge or forgiveness?"

At the time of the writing, the State of California was preparing to execute Stanley Tookie Williams, founder of the Crips gang, for capital murder. It just so happen that the writer Sean-Paul Kelley was one of the best friends of Michael LaHood, the man shot and killed by Mauriceo Brown in that fatal robbery.

Brown was an acquaintance and later co-defendant of Kenneth Foster, Jr. Foster, who was simultaneously convicted with Brown and sentenced to die by lethal injection. The triggerman Brown was executed in 2006 and Foster was scheduled to die on August 30, 2007. However, six hours from execution, he received a stay of execution from Texas Governor Rick Perry, and his death sentence commuted to life.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

To Kenneth Foster, Jr. from Eddie Griffin

All praises be to God, you have received mercy. Forgiveness, however, is another issue.

“This is not justice for the only real victim here, who was my brother,” said Nico LaHood, a criminal defense attorney.

However, even if the law requires “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, revenge cannot be camouflaged as justice. The Michael LaHood’s killer, Mauriceo Brown, was put to death in 2006. What more could be asked of Justice?

Nico LaHood asserts: “The bottom line is that I believe the governor folded due to political pressure.” But clearly Texas Governor Rick Perry had a more substantial reason to commute Foster’s sentence to life.

In his released statement, Perry said, “After carefully considering the facts of this case, along with the recommendations from the Board of Pardons and Paroles, I believe the right and just decision is to commute Foster's sentence from the death penalty to life imprisonment.”

It is the “right and just” decision. In the words of Kenneth’s grandfather, Lawrence Foster, “This was justice.”

There are many rumors as to how and why young Foster was granted a reprieve, not the least of which is the fact that the case attracted international attention. According to this Los Angeles Times report: Using the Internet, Foster's supporters launched a campaign that garnered sympathy from all over the world -- especially in Europe. Newspaper editorials in Italy and France condemned Texas for barbarism.

Walidah Imarisha reports: Supporters attribute this almost unprecedented decision to the national and international support he has gotten. Last minute media this morning including The New York Times, The LA Times, the Chicago Tribune and several news stations only join with Court TV, BET News, NBC, ABC and hundreds of others, not only here but in Venezuela, Dubai, Italy, France, England and elsewhere.

But the Governor said: "I am concerned about Texas law that allowed capital murder defendants to be tried simultaneously and it is an issue I think the legislature should examine."

The New York Times reports:

Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, director of Amnesty International USA’s Program to Abolish the Death Penalty, hailed the reprieve. "Given the obvious — that it would have been virtually impossible to predict the murder of Michael LaHood — Foster was sentenced to death under the broadest and most appalling interpretation of the Law of Parties," she said “We commend Governor Perry for preventing this miscarriage of justice. We also share the governor’s concerns about Texas death penalty law and urge him to examine all injustices plaguing the capital punishment system in his state.”

Norma LaHood, the murder victim’s mother, said she took the news of the commutation as divine will. “I’m filled with peace,” Mrs. LaHood said by telephone from San Antonio. “I will mourn my son till I die, but I’m not forced any more to relive his death.”

Eddie Griffin writes:

Here is justice, not revenge. Here also is mercy. Can forgiveness and redemption be far behind?

Michael LaHood’s friend, Sean-Paul Kelley wrote “I don't want his killer to die. I want his killer to repent. And then spend the rest of his life in prison helping other prisoners with less onerous sentences to see the light.”

Has Kenneth Foster, Jr. seen the light?

Jesus said, “Except you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Today, Kenneth will see the light of a new day- a day never promised to him nor expected by him. He is, as it were, living “on borrowed time”.

Can he show others the light? How many can he lead out of darkness into the light? Only time will tell. Seeing that he now has a lifetime over to help others, maybe in saving others, he may also save himself.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Eddie good post, I am very proud of your work for this cause. Although I have to admit I have not a bit of sympathy for Tookie Williams and if someone murders someone I love I will never cry if the murderer gets the death penalty.

    Although I do believe in redemption.