I Am A Killer S1E2

Photo Credit: IMDB

“Since the reintroduction of the death penalty in the US in 1976, more than 8,000 people have been sentenced to death.” ~Netflix, I am a Killer series.

I am a Killer Episode 2 – Killer in the Eyes of the Law               

This episode focuses on the story of Kenneth Foster, Jr, who was 41 at the time of filming. They list is inmate number as #999232. This is a Texas case. Kenneth Foster was sentenced to death in 1997 for the 1996 fatal shooting of Michael LaHood. Foster grew up in San Antonio, his grandparents stepped in to raised him due to both his parents being addicts. In 1996 Foster had been involved with music prior to the murder. According to Foster’s account of what happened he never left his vehicle and it was someone with him that shot and killed Michael LaHood. The murder took place at 2:14am on August 14th, 1997.               

Foster was the driver of the vehicle while the other passengers are Mauriceo Brown, Dwayne Dillard and Julius Steen. Foster has maintained from the beginning that it was Mauriceo Brown that pulled the trigger.  Foster was convicted of the murder under the Texas Law of Parties (more on that below). They had originally been driving around looking for people to rob. According to Foster’s account Brown committed the murder out of view of those in the car. In 2006, Brown was executed for his role in the murder. One year later Foster received his own execution date. Because of the press around Foster’s execution he was removed from Death Row a day early. On August 30, 2007 Foster was set to be executed. Six hours prior to his execution his sentence was commuted to a life sentence by then governor Rick Perry. Foster is now serving a forty-year life sentence. He will be eligible for parole in 2036.               

During the episode they spoke with Michael LaHood’s brother Nico. While I want to feel compassion and empathy for Nico, his cold and callousness about the topic hit a nerve. Nico speaks about redemption when it comes to his own criminal background. However, he keeps denying that he believes Foster has changed. This double standard really irks me, especially given that he went on to be elected DA for Bexar county.               

Lawrence Foster (Kenneth’s grandfather) reached out and sat down with Nico during the episode. Nico was dismissive of Lawrence which again irked me. I get that he is angry, and he wants those responsible for his brother’s death held accountable. However, he has already attended the execution of Brown, why not meet with Foster and then judge if he is worthy of redemption of not. His constant refusal and dismissiveness of redemption for Foster but okay for him is crap.

This episode changed my perspective on the death penalty. I had previous took that stance that if a jury sentence you to death then you deserve it. However, I take issue with Texas’ Law of Parties, as well as how it has been applied in the history of the state. In my additional research on this episode I found it interesting that Foster and Brown were sentenced to death, while Dillard was sentenced on a different case that was for a murder 2 weeks prior and Steen was given immunity for testifying against Brown and Foster.

A part of the reason that I have issue with the sentencing in this case there is no consistent telling of the story. Brown had originally confessed to the murder of LaHood then changed his story that it was Dillard that committed the murder. I have an issue with Brown recanting his confession and pointing the finger at Dillard. I feel he did so because of his gang ties and knowing they would throw the book at him. I believe most state prosecutors will use a person’s gang affiliation to show that they don’t value the life of others.               

Foster is one of only three people convicted of capital murder to have his sentence commuted since the restoration of the death penalty in the 1980s. Miguel Angel Martinez was sentenced to death under the Law of Parties in 1991. His case is one that is argued to show the inconsistent application of the Law of Parties. His sentence was commuted to a life sentence and remains in prison even though he had been eligible for parole since 2006.               

The Texas Law of Parties states “a person can be held criminally responsible for action of another in certain instances including ‘if, in the attempt to carry out a conspiracy to commit one felony, another felony is committed by one if the conspirators, all conspirators are guilty of the felony actually committed, though having no intent to commit it, if the offense was committed in furtherance of the unlawful purpose and was one that should have been anticipated as a result of the carrying out of the conspiracy.’” The death penalty cannot be handed down in a conviction under the Law of Parties unless the sentencing jury find beyond a reasonable doubt that “the defendant actually caused the death of the deceased or did not actually cause the death of the deceased by intended to kill the deceased or another or anticipated that a human life would be taken.”               

I take a lot of issue with the Law of Parties. I don’t have an issue with people being convicted with it. But I have a real issue with the death penalty being allowed to be sentenced with a conviction under the law. If you are not the person pulling the trigger, I believe that you can be saved unless you have an extensive history of violent and escalating behavior.               

The reason I take such issue with the Law of Parties is Foster is one of the few I feel after watching this show that feels remorse. I feel that he has learned his lesson and done the best he could while behind bars to turn his life around. However, without a complete picture of all factors in the case I can’t say that he wouldn’t reoffend. I believe in giving people second chances when they deserve it. If nothing else I believe that Nico should suck it up and go meet with him. Maybe that will help Nico deal with his anger and Foster may have more understanding about how his actions/inactions effected the LaHood family. I really would like to have the final note in this story be one of healing for all involved.               

As I did with the previous episode I want to show the criminal history of those involved in this case. Kenneth Foster had to previous convictions prior to the murder.

1994-10-17 Aggravated Assault w/Deadly Weapon Sentence: 10 Y 00 M 00 D

1994-10-17 Aggravated Assault w/Deadly Weapon Sentence: 10 Y 00 M 00 D

Dwayne Dillard SID #05205327 TDCJ #00892606 His maximum sentence is life for cumulative offenses. His parole eligibility date: 2037-03-13

Record as follows:

1994-02-12 Burg Habit w/I theft Sentence 30 Y 00 M 00 D

1993-11-22 Burg Habit w/I theft Sentence 10 Y 00 M 00 D

1996-08-02 Capital Murder Sentence 9999 Y 99 M 99 D

Julius Steen SID #05560425 TDJC #01162056 Maximum sentence date: Life sentence. His parole eligibility date: 2026-08-15

Record as follows:

1996-08-15 Agg Robbery Sentence 9999 Y 99 M 99 D

Mauriceo Mashawn Brown SID #568421

5/30/94 Theft $20-200 Shoplifting

7/21/94 Poss explosive weapon

11/9/94 Unlaw carry weapon

4/8/95 Crim trespass

11/2/95 Burglary vehicle

8/15/96 Capital murder – other felony

9/27/96 Crim misch $20-500

This episode made me take a hard look at what I believed about the death penalty. I believe that as we learn and grow as people, we are allowed to adjust our beliefs accordingly. However, I still believe there is a place for the death penalty. But until our broken criminal justice system is fixed, I don’t believe we should be executing anyone. I have listed all my additional research links below. I definitely recommend that everyone watch this show. 



Related Posts

© 2023 T.S. Hathaway - Theme by WPEnjoy · Powered by WordPress