The research paper, "Racial Disparity in the Case of Duane Edward Buck," is available in Adobe .pdf format.
"Report: Racial Bias Prevalent When TX Man Sentenced to Death," is by John Michaelson for Texas Public News Service.
Advocates for a Texas man on death row filed a petition on Wednesday seeking a new sentencing hearing, pointing to just-released research on racial bias when his execution was ordered. The analysis looked at some 500 cases in Harris County around the time of Duane Buck's sentencing. It found the death penalty was much more likely for blacks, according to Christina Swarns with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
"For African American defendants like Mr. Buck, the Harris County District Attorney's office was three times more likely to seek death than for similarly situated white offenders, and Harris County juries were twice as likely to impose the death sentences for offenders like Mr. Buck than they were for similarly situated white offenders," she said.
The petition cites a promise to Buck made more than a decade ago. His attorney, Kate Black, says the promise was made because the prosecution elicited race-based testimony at several sentencings, Buck's included.
"In 2000, then (Texas) Attorney General John Cornyn looked at cases in which the expert who testified at Mr. Buck's trial testified in a number of other trials and found that there was Constitutional error in seven cases," Black said. "In six of the cases, those individuals received new sentencing hearings. Mr. Buck is now the only person who has not received a new sentencing hearing."
The Guardian reports, "Research exposes racial discrimination in America's death penalty capital," by Ed Pilkington.
Black defendants facing trial in Houston – the death penalty capital of America – are more than three times as likely to face a possible death sentence than whites, new academic research has revealed.
The study, by a criminologist at the University of Maryland, exposes the extent of racial discrimination inherent in the administering of capital punishment in Harris County, the ground zero of the death penalty in the US. The county, which incorporates Houston, Texas's largest city, has carried out 116 executions in the modern era – more than any entire state in the union apart from Texas itself.
Professor Raymond Paternoster of the university's institute of criminal justice and criminology was commissioned by defence lawyers acting in the case of Duane Buck, a death row prisoner from Houston whose 1995 death sentence is currently being reconsidered by the Texas courts.
Paternoster, whose report is based on the latest quantitative methods, looked at 504 cases involving adult defendants who had been indicted for capital murder in Harris County between 1992 and 1999 – the period during which Buck was charged for murdering his former girlfriend, Debra Gardner, and a man called Kenneth Butler. Paternoster whittled down that pool to 20 cases that most closely echoed that of Buck's own in terms of the factors involved in the crime that were likely to incur a death sentence.
He found that of the 21 men, including Buck, seven out of the 10 who were African American were sent by the Harris County district attorney for capital trial, compared with just one of the five white defendants.
"The probability that the district attorney will advance a case to a [death] penalty trial is more than three times as high when the defendant is African American than for white defendants," Paternoster writes. He adds: "The disparity by race of the defendant, moreover, cannot be attributed to observed case characteristics because these cases are those that were most comparable".
AFP posts, "Texas urged to overturn a racially-tinged death penalty."
Lawyers for an inmate whose execution was halted at the last minute urged a Texas court Wednesday to overturn his death penalty on the grounds that it was the result of racial discrimination.
Duane Buck, 49, was condemned to die for the 1995 murder of his girlfriend and one of her friends.
Neither Buck's attorney nor prosecutors dispute his conviction for the double-murder, but they have argued that racial considerations factored into the sentencing phase of his trial.
The Supreme Court intervened just hours before Buck's execution on September 15, 2011, with justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan arguing that the case needed to be reviewed because "our criminal justice system should not tolerate (a death sentence) marred by racial overtones."
Buck's attorneys urged the Texas court in a brief filed Wednesday to vacate Buck's sentence and give him a new trial as a result of the "long history of racial discrimination" in the administration of criminal justice in Harris County, Texas.
"This case is very simple: no death sentence can be supported by an appeal to racial prejudice," defense attorney Kate Black said.
They cited a study which concluded that from 1992 to 1999 -- the period during which Buck was tried and sentenced -- prosecutors in Harris County were "over three times more likely to seek the death penalty against African American defendants, than against similarly-situated white defendants."
The study also found that juries in Harris County were more than twice as likely to impose death sentences on African American defendants than on whites.
The study also found evidence that race played a role in Buck's particular case.
"Study: Blacks Twice as Likely as Whites to Get Death Penalty in This Texas County," by Tim Murphy at Mother Jones.
In September of 2011, the Supreme Court granted a stay of execution for Texas death row inmate Duane Buck, who was given a death sentence in 1997 for the murder of an ex-girlfriend and a male acquaintance. The reason: Buck's race (he's black) was cited by a psychologist—whose testimony was in turn cited by the prosecutor—as evidence that he may pose a threat to other inmates should he be sentenced to life in prison. Texas' Republican attorney general in 2002, now-Sen. John Cornyn, recommended that Buck and six other inmates in similar situations be tried again; Buck is the only one who hasn't. Buck's case has since returned to the state courts, and his attorneys are still appealing for a re-trial. (No one disputes his actual guilt.)
On Wednesday, Buck's attorneys released a new report from University of Maryland criminology professor Ray Paternoster examining the impact race played on sentencing in Harris County (which includes Houston, where Buck was tried) from 1992 to 1999. Paternoster examined 504 cases. The takeaway:The probability that the district attorney will advance a case to a penalty trial is more than three times as high when the defendant is African-American than for white defendants (this includes Mr. Buck’s case). This disparity by race of the defendant, moreover, cannot be attributed to observed case characteristics because these cases are those that were most comparable in terms of the estimated propensity score.
This racial disparity is only partially corrected at the jury sentencing stage...Ultimately, among this group of comparable cases a death sentence was twice as likely to be imposed on an African American defendant as a white defendant.
"Study: Harris County, Texas Juries Twice As Likely to Demand Death Penalty for Black Defendants Than White," by Julianne Hing at Colorlines.
Ebony posts, "Racism and the Death Penalty: New Evidence," by Lumumba Akinwole Bandele.