Monday, November 12, 2007

The Law of Parties -- Is it a Just Law?

Texas has a law called, The Law of Parties. Other states have similar laws called, Felony Murder. In essence, these laws hold all parties engaged in a criminal activity responsible for the death of any one that occurs during that activity. The person does not have to be the trigger, and the murder doesn't have to be part of the initial plan. If a murder occurs, everyone involved is considered equally responsible.

That law in Texas has recently raised serious discussion, and Governor Perry has recently commuted the execution of Kenneth Foster to life imprisonment. Foster was a participant in a string of burglaries, and he claims that burglary was all that was intended and that he had no involvement or control over the murder committed by another participant. Previously, the Texas Board of Paroles and Pardons voted 6-1 to recommended the commute to Gov. Perry.

I am very mixed in my feelings about these kinds of laws. When a person engages in a criminal activity which involves guns, he or she should anticipate that something might go wrong and a murder occur. That criminals don't think of such serious things is no excuse.

What really disturbs me is the disparity in the sentencing for the group. The trigger man was convicted and executed, but the other participants, no more innocent or guilty than Foster, were given life sentences. We have seen other cases when the trigger man actually received a lesser sentence than the participants. How can the participants be more responsible than the trigger man? I think Appellate courts should have the authority and the wisdom to equalize sentences in these cases.