DALLAS (Reuters) - Texas Governor Rick Perry commuted the death sentence of a man hours before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection on Thursday, a rare occurrence in America's most active capital punishment state.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles made the recommendation in the case of Kenneth Eugene Foster, who was convicted and sentenced to death for his role in the 1996 capital murder of Michael LaHood.
"Foster sought to have his death sentence commuted to a life sentence arguing that he did not shoot the victim, but merely drove the car ... that the actual killer was riding (in)," Perry's office said in a statement.
"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," Perry was quoted as saying.
Texas has put 402 people to death since it resumed executions in 1982, far more than any other state. The state has already executed two convicted killers this week alone.
Perry's office said the governor had commuted two previous death sentences related to convicts who were judged to be mentally retarded.
He has also granted clemency in 2005 to 28 death row inmates who had committed their crimes while they were under the age of 18, but that was in response to a Supreme Court ruling on the issue.
Thursday's commutation was the first in Perry's almost seven years in office that did not involve such circumstances. He has also rejected one recommendation from the Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute a death sentence.