"Texas case exposes racial bias in death penalty for Duane Buck," is the title of Leonard Pitts's latest syndicated column. It's via his home paper, the Miami Herald. Here's the beginning:
If the state of Texas executes Duane Buck, it’ll be because he is black.
Well, mainly it will be because in 1995, he shot his ex-girlfriend, Debra Gardner, and her friend, Kenneth Butler, to death at Gardner’s Houston home, and also wounded his own stepsister, Phyllis Taylor. But it will also be because he’s black.
In Texas, they have this rule: a jury contemplating the death penalty must evaluate the likelihood a defendant poses a future danger to the community. Jurors in Buck’s trial were told he poses said danger because he is a black man.
Mind you, this came from a defense witness, whose ultimate finding was that Buck himself represented little danger. But, said psychologist Dr. Walter Quijano, “It’s a sad commentary that minorities, Hispanics and black people, are overrepresented in the criminal justice system.”
When asked by the prosecutor whether “the race factor, black, increases the future dangerousness,” Quijano answered, “Yes.”
So Buck sits on death row awaiting an appeals court ruling on his bid for a new sentencing hearing. Not a new trial, you understand. No one disputes his guilt — or the monstrousness of his crime. But about the sentence, there is plenty dispute, enough that his surviving victim and Linda Geffen, a prosecutor who helped convict him, both think he should get a new hearing.
Earlier coverage of Duane Buck's case begins at the link.