I think Texas Gov. Rick Perry was right to spare Kenneth Foster’s life last night and commute his sentence to life in prison. Foster deserves harsh punishment for his role in a murder, but as his trial revealed, there was no premeditation, Foster did not pull the trigger, and he did not even know that the killer was going to shoot the victim until it was done. As I noted earlier in the week, the ultimate penalty must be used sparingly and must be aimed at the true perpetrators.
As I’ve made clear in previous posts, I’m not a staunch opponent of the death penalty. I think it’s warranted for the most awful premeditated murders, if not as a deterrent then as a justifiable act that defends society.
But all that assumes that we can assess the penalty fairly. The increasing use of DNA evidence has cast doubt on our ability to do that, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the death penalty outlawed by the Supreme Court if these DNA exculpations continue.