There is additional coverage today on prosecutor Linda Geffin's call for a halt to Duane Buck's execution, in a letter to the Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Allan Turner writes, "Houston killer should be spared, prosecutor says," for the Houston Chronicle.
With killer Duane Buck just days away from execution, a prosecutor who helped send the Houston auto mechanic to death row has joined clergymen, lawyers and one of Buck's shooting victims in demanding that his life be spared.
Linda Geffin, now chief of the Harris County Attorney's special prosecutions unit, was one of two assistant district attorneys who successfully argued against Buck in his 1997 trial. Buck, 48, was convicted for the July 1995 murders of his former girlfriend, Debra Gardner, and her friend, Kenneth Butler. Buck is to be put to death Thursday.
In a letter to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which is considering a petition to recommend to Gov. Rick Perry that Buck's death sentence be commuted to life in prison, Geffin said she "felt compelled to step forward."
Geffin cited a 2000 press release from then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn stating Buck's case was among six that may have been tainted by punishment-phase testimony from psychologist Walter Quijano. Federal appeals courts ordered new punishment hearings for five of them because the expert witness made inappropriate assertions about race.
All ultimately were again sentenced to death and one has been executed.
At the time, Buck's case was still in state court and was never granted a new hearing.
"Mr. Buck committed a terrible crime and he must be punished," Geffin wrote in the Friday letter. "But the attorney general was right when he said that it is 'inappropriate to allow race to be considered as a factor in our criminal justice system.'"
"Duane Buck Prosecutor Urges Clemency," is the title of Brandi Grissom's Texas Tribune post.
"When a defendant’s race is introduced as a factor in guilt or sentencing – even inadvertently – the integrity of the case is compromised," said Mark MacDougall, a pro bono lawyer at Akin Gump, who often works with indigent defendants in death penalty cases. "The only remedy is a new trial. This is never more critical than in a capital murder case."
As his execution date approaches, Buck's lawyers are calling on the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. Rick Perry to grant clemency and allow a new trial to determine his sentence. Last week, one of Buck's surviving victims urged clemency on his behalf.
Today, Linda Geffin, who served as second chair during the initial Buck prosecution, wrote a letter calling on Perry and the parole board to halt the execution and allow for a new trial untainted by racial questions.
"It is regrettable that any race-based considerations were placed before Mr. Buck's jury," she wrote. "No individual should be executed without being afforded a fair trial, untainted by considerations of race."
Earlier coverage of Duane Buck's race-tinted sentence begins with yesterday's post.