That's the title of an editorial in today's Houston Chronicle on the case of Duane Buck. It's subtitled, "Keep race out of death sentence hearings to help ensure that justice is equal for all."
Whenever Texas juries sentence a criminal to death, they have to find beyond a reasonable doubt that the convicted is a continuing threat to society. When Duane Buck was sentenced to death, prosecutors relied on his race to help prove this point. As a black man, the jury heard, Buck was more likely to pose a future criminal threat.
There is no doubt that Buck is guilty of murder. There is also no doubt that his death sentence is tarnished by racial considerations.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is currently considering an appeal arguing that Buck deserves a new sentencing hearing. Our state needs to show our criminal justice system is free of racial discrimination, and it can start by granting Buck a clean, unbiased hearing.
Our state criminal justice system does not have a sterling reputation for race-blind procedure. Juries in Harris County are twice as likely to sentence black criminals with the death penalty than they are white criminals, according to a recent study by University of Maryland criminologist Ray Paternoster.
Texas has to prove that everyone, no matter how cruel or evil, receives proper due process in our courts, free of immoral and now illegal racial bias. And we can do so by granting Duane Buck a new sentencing.