Convicted Riverdale teacher killer seeks removal of death penalty
FORT MYERS, Fla. A man convicted in a high-profile killing more than 20 years ago is asking a judge to overturn his death penalty amid statewide questions about the way the penalty is applied.
Kevin Foster was found guilty of shooting a Riverdale High School band teacher in 1996. He was pegged as the leader of “The Lords of Chaos” gang that terrorized Lee County in the 1990s.
A judge has indicated he’s unlikely to overturn Foster’s death sentence, but no final decision has been made. And a bill Gov. Rick Scott signed into law Monday could influence the outcome.
The new law requires that a jury must unanimously recommend the death penalty in order for it to be applied. Previously, only a majority of jurors was needed to sentence someone to death.
The jury in Foster’s case voted 9-3 in favor of the death penalty.
It’s a change that could open many cases to appeal, Fort Myers attorney and legal expert Daniel Garza said.
“At this point it’s too soon to know what’s exactly going to happen.” Garza said. “What we do know is creating an issue that can be litigated. And how the judges are going to decide, I don’t know.”
The new law only applies to cases from 2002 on. Foster was convicted years before that.
But the law’s passage injects doubt that makes Foster’s case less cut-and-dried than when a judge rejected Foster’s previous request to dismiss the death penalty.
“Now it’s calling into question all of those cases where the verdict wasn’t unanimous as for death penalties, and all of those cases where judges strayed from what the jury thought and imposed their own sentence,” Garza said.