Kenneth Foster Jr. was 19 years old when he drove three friends around San Antonio, Texas on the evening of August 14, 1996. The night started in fun…but ended in murder. For an in-depth look at the murder trial of Kenneth Foster Jr. and the events that led to the extremely rare commutation of his execution, read this Kenneth Foster wiki.
Kenneth Foster Jr.: A Childhood Filled with Drugs and Poverty
For the most part, until he was charged with murder, nobody outside a small circle of friends really knew who Kenneth Foster Jr. was.
Foster was born October 22, 1976, at Brackenridge Hospital in Austin, Texas. Until the fourth grade, he lived in East Austin, near Hargrave and Rosewood streets.
Kenneth Foster’s parents were drug addicts who made his early, formative years very tough.
His mother worked the streets as a prostitute, and died of AIDS in 1993.
His father, Kenneth Foster Sr., used to take his young son to “dope houses” where he scored crack and heroin.
According to his grandfather, Lawrence Foster Sr., both of Kenneth’s parents used their son as a shield when supporting their drug habits or shoplifting. They’d go to a store and steal things and use Kenneth to hide the evidence.
When Kenneth was in the fourth grade, he went to live with his grandparents, who lived on the other side of San Antonio.
“He liked it down here… He became more stable,” Lawrence Foster Sr. said. “I didn’t ever like him going to visit [in Austin] because he’d come back and have the same traits [as his parents], and I wanted to eradicate them. He’d steal things and not know any better.”
This led to several run-ins with police, including a couple of minor drug possession busts. But in the grand scheme of things, Kenneth “was more good than bad.”
When he was around 18 years old, he and his girlfriend, Nicole Johnson, had a baby daughter, Nydesha.
Foster was in a steady relationship, was a father, was going to college, and was an aspiring rap musician trying to launch his own label, Tribulation Records.
He had his whole life ahead of him.
All of that changed on August 14, 1996.
“Kenneth holds me in high esteem, he’s said… And he thinks that [his grandparents] are the reason he is what he is—not where he is,” Foster Sr. said.
“If I’d made a left turn instead of a right turn,” Kenneth said, reflecting on the events of that fateful night. “It must be for a reason.”
August 14, 1996 – A Co-Conspirator to Murder
At around 9:00 p.m., on the evening of August 14, 1996, Kenneth Foster Jr. and his three friends, Julius Steen, Mauriceo Brown (a known member of the Crips street gang), and Dwayne Dillard were heading into downtown San Antonio in his grandfather’s rental car, a white Chevy Cavalier.
On that warm Wednesday night, the four men were cruising around, smoking and drinking. While Kenneth Foster Jr. was driving, “class clown” Brown told everyone in the car he was carrying a gun and thought it would be a good idea to “jack” a few people to pay for their night on the town.
Before long, they had $300.00 burning a hole in their pockets. Foster’s friends knew what they wanted to do with it—check out a new club.
As they drove toward their destination, they allegedly got lost north of downtown and wound up on a dark, windy residential street in an unfamiliar neighborhood. They were behind two cars and, for some reason, thought they might be headed to a party, so Foster continued to follow them.
That is, until the cars ahead of them pulled into the driveway of a darkened house.
Kenneth Foster Jr. drove a little farther before turning around. When the four high-and-drunk men passed the house, they claimed they saw a woman standing at the foot of the driveway, gesturing to them.
It was late, around 2:00 a.m., but Kenneth Foster Jr. stopped the car in front of the home, owned by the LaHood family. Mauriceo Brown got out of the car and started talking to Mary Patrick, the woman who had waved them in.
Brown and Patrick chatted as he followed her up the driveway. At around the same time, her boyfriend, 25-year-old law student Michael LaHood Jr., appeared behind Patrick and instructed her to go inside.
LaHood approached Brown, and after a brief altercation, Brown shot LaHood at point-blank range in the face. The carload of men drove off as LaHood lay dead on the driveway.
Within a few hours, Kenneth Foster Jr. was pulled over by San Antonio police for speeding and driving erratically. By now, the LaHood shooting was well-known to police, as was the description of the car the men were driving.
All four of the men were on probation for earlier felonies and were arrested for the murder of LaHood.
Each of the men gave police a written statement saying that Mauriceo Brown was the murderer. Even Brown himself admitted he’d shot and killed LaHood. Admittedly, Brown’s story had changed a little.
In his confession, Brown claimed he saw LaHood reaching for a weapon; he simply shot him in self-defense, he said.
For the record, police never found a weapon on LaHood or at the scene. Regardless, the facts of the case are that Mauriceo Brown fired the shot that killed LaHood before he ran back into the car, driven by Kenneth Foster Jr., which then fled the scene.
During the trial, prosecutors argued that Brown had planned on robbing Michael LaHood Jr. all along, not to score Mary Patrick’s phone number. They claimed that Foster, Brown, Dillard, and Steen were still cruising San Antonio looking for people to rob when they saw LaHood and his girlfriend Patrick driving and began to follow them.
They ended up at LaHood’s driveway at around 2:00 a.m. Prosecutors contended Brown jumped out of the car, walked up to LaHood, and demanded his car keys. When he didn’t hand them over, Brown shot him.
Prosecutors argued that because the four men had robbed two people earlier in the evening and Brown had a gun, Kenneth Foster Jr. should have been able to predict that harm would come to LaHood.
Steen, who served as lookout that night, cut a deal to testify against the others.
Dillard was never tried for the crime but, oddly enough, was held under indictment until shortly after Foster and Brown were convicted and was unable to testify at their trial.
On October 11, 1996, Foster, Brown, and Steen were indicted on capital murder charges for “intentionally and knowingly” shooting LaHood while trying to rob him.
Kenneth Foster Jr. never pulled the trigger, but was still charged with murder. Under Texas’ “Law of Parties,” anyone involved in a crime, even if they didn’t carry it out directly, is guilty of the crime.
That means, under the law, all the jury needed to determine was whether Foster should have anticipated that Brown might kill LaHood.
Against all odds, the jury convicted Kenneth Foster Jr.
Steen and Dillard were given life sentences, though Dillard’s was for a separate murder charge.
Following a sentencing hearing, during which a jury heard about Foster and Brown’s affiliations with street gangs, the two were sentenced to death in May 1997.
In less than a year, Kenneth Foster Jr., then 19, had gone from father and aspiring rapper to death row prisoner #99232.
More Information Revealed after the Trial
Since the trial, Brown, Steen, and Dillard have all sworn that no one in the car had any reason to believe, predict, or anticipate that a robbery or murder would happen when Brown left the car in front of the LaHood residence.
They argued that there was no conspiracy.
Keith Hampton, Kenneth Foster Jr.’s attorney, said on many occasions that it is unconstitutional to convict someone under the Law of Parties when there is no conspiracy.
Moreover, four years after the trial, Dillard testified that Kenneth Foster Jr. had wanted to stop after the second robbery. In fact, Foster had asked Dillard to convince Brown and Steen to stop, because they knew Dillard better and Foster thought they would disregard his request.
July 2006 – Mauriceo Brown Executed
Mauriceo Brown spent his last days on death row praying and receiving visitors.
According to his brother, Leslie Brown Jr., Mauriceo seemed calm and upbeat after finding his faith again. A month before, he was re-baptized as a Catholic. And he had been reading the Bible daily.
“He feels like everything happens for a reason, and he was given this opportunity to get his life right with God,” Leslie said.
For Mauriceo’s last meal, he ordered enchiladas with cheese and onions, fried chicken, and a boneless T-bone steak with “A1 Steak Sauce.”
On July 9, 2006, Mauriceo Brown was executed by lethal injection in front of LaHood’s two brothers.
His final words were:
“To the victim’s family, I am sorry you lost a brother, loved one, and friend. I apologize that you lost a loved one this way. To my family, I love you all. Keep your heads up and know I will be in a better place. God bless you all. Okay, warden.”
According to witnesses, as the drugs took effect, Brown’s mother cried and collapsed to the floor. She was escorted from the witness area shortly thereafter.
Brown was pronou