Today's Dallas Morning News carries, "Lawyers fight racially based Texas death sentence." It's written by Sommer Ingram.
Attorneys for a Texas man who was sentenced to death after a state witness relied on race in his testimony are fighting to get his sentence changed, or at least get him a new hearing.
When Duane Edward Buck was on trial for capital murder in 1997, a psychologist told jurors that because Buck was black, he was more likely to be violent in the future.
His case was one of seven that former state Attorney General John Cornyn wanted reviewed because of the state’s unconstitutional reliance on race.
New punishment hearings were ordered for the other cases, which were at the federal appellate stage. But because Buck’s case was still in state court, it slipped through the cracks.
He was never given a retrial and is scheduled to die Sept. 15 for the murders of Debra Gardner and Kenneth Butler.
He also shot Phyllis Taylor, who survived and is now asking for Buck’s life to be spared.
Attorneys for Buck call his case another in a series of chronic mishandlings of the death penalty in Texas, the nation’s busiest death penalty state.
“This case is an affront to justice,” Kate Black, a lawyer for Buck, said at a Capitol news conference Wednesday. “This is just another shocking example of the fundamental flaws in the Texas death penalty. Racism played an intolerable role in a life-or-death decision.”
Anthony Graves, a Texas exoneree who spent 18 years behind bars for murders he didn’t commit, is speaking out in Buck’s favor.
“I am the perfect example of our flawed system in Texas,” Graves said. “This is a case of basic racial profiling, and I’m asking everyone who can to jump up and scream that this is enough.”
"Lawyers, Victim Seek Clemency for Death Row Inmate," is the title of Lara Lapin's Texas Tribune report.
Phyllis Taylor survived the 1995 shooting spree that ended with two others dead and Duane Buck on death row. Buck is scheduled to be executed on Sept. 15. Today, Taylor urged the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, Gov. Rick Perry, Attorney General Greg Abbott and Harris County District Attorney Patricia Lykos to halt the execution.
“This execution would only add to my pain, and it wouldn’t give me closure," said Taylor, who survived a shot in the chest. "I would ask that Duane Buck’s life be spared. I feel that he deserves a fair trial.”
Buck was convicted in Harris County for the July 1995 shooting deaths of Debra Gardner and Kenneth Butler. During his 1997 trial, psychologist Walter Quijano testified that because Buck was black, he was more likely to be a violent threat in the future. Quijano gave similar testimony in six other death row cases.
In 2000, then-Attorney General John Cornyn admitted that all of the cases, including Buck’s, were tainted by constitutional error because the government relied on race as a consideration for the death sentence.
Cornyn said it was “inappropriate to allow race to be considered as a factor in our criminal justice system,” and promised to “continue to do everything [he could] to assure Texans of [the Office of the Attorney General’s] commitment to an equitable criminal system,” according to court documents.
Buck’s lawyers asked Perry, Abbott, Lykos and the board to commute his sentence or grant a 120-day reprieve to allow time for the parties to work together.
Abbott’s office did not immediately provide comment. The Harris County district attorney’s office has said it would not intervene.
In the next post, the Houston Chronicle calls for justice in the case. Earlier coverage of Duane Buck's case begins at the link.
Related posts are in the future dangerousness index.