"Prosecutor Seeks Stay of Execution for Texas Prisoner Duane Buck, Sentenced to Death for Being Black," is the Democracy Now report with Amy Goodman. There is audio at the link.
Although Duane Buck’s guilt is not in question for the 1995 murder of his former girlfriend Debra Gardner and her friend Kenneth Butler, critics say jurors in his case were led to choose a death sentence over life without parole based on testimony of a state psychologist who argued that African-American criminals are more likely to pose a future danger to the public. We’re joined by two guests: Linda Geffin, the second-chair prosecutor who helped win Buck’s death sentence in 1997, but now opposes his execution, and Christina Swarns, an attorney with Duane Buck’s legal defense team and director of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s Criminal Justice Project.
Here's an excerpt from the interview:
For more, we go to Houston, where we’re joined by Linda Geffin, second-chair prosecutor who helped win the death sentence for Duane Buck in '97. She now opposes his execution. She is currently senior assistant prosecutor in Harris County attorney's office. And here in New York, we’re joined by Christina Swarns, attorney who’s part of Duane Buck’s legal defense team. She is the director of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s Criminal Justice Project.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Linda Geffin, let’s go to you. You helped convict Duane Buck. He ended up with the death penalty, being sentenced to death. Why have you changed your view on his case right now?
LINDA GEFFIN: Fourteen years after the trial, I saw on the Internet the offensive testimony in black and white. And when I had the opportunity to read it and to really absorb what it was saying, it was so—I had so much clarity that it was racially offensive, it was egregious, and it was error. So I emailed Mr. Buck’s lawyer and asked how I could help.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what that quote was. I’ll read a comment Dr. Quijano made to The New York Times. He said, quote, "I was asked a question whether there is a relationship between race and violence or dangerousness. The literature suggests that there is a correlation. So I had to say yes." He added, "It’s not because of the blackness of the person that is causing the violence. It is what goes with it. Poverty, the exposure to lack of education, exposure to criminal elements." Let’s go to our guest right here in New York, Christina Swarns. Your response to that?
CHRISTINA SWARNS: Well, I think Dr. Quijano made quite clear that what he believed and what the state was looking for him to say was that because Mr. Buck was and is African American, he posed a future danger to society. And the prosecution, in cross-examination, elicited that testimony. They then went on to argue specifically that point during closing argument. What the prosecutor said in closing was: Dr. Quijano testified that he would pose a future danger, and that—on that basis, you should find that he is a future danger, and he should be sentenced to death. I would go on to say that, as The New York Times reported, Dr. Quijano’s opinion, of course, about this is false: There isn’t a real connection to support a future dangerousness finding.