For well over a decade, Duane Buck has been challenging his death sentence as based in part on racial prejudice, after a psychologist testified that he was more likely to be a future danger because he is black.
The US supreme court on Wednesday ordered a new court hearing for a black Texas prison inmate who claims improper testimony about his race tainted his death sentence. The justices voted 6-2 in favor of the inmate, Duane Buck. Buck had tried for years to get federal courts to look at his claim that his rights had been violated when jurors were told by a defense expert witness that Buck was more likely to be dangerous in the future because he is black.
Chief Justice John Roberts said in his majority opinion that the federal appeals court that heard Buck’s case was wrong to deny him a hearing. “There is a reasonable probability that Buck was sentenced to death in part because of his race,” Roberts said in his opinion. “This is a disturbing departure from the basic premise that our criminal law punishes people for what they do, not who they are.”
…Buck was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend and another man in 1995. His case was among six in 2000 that Texas’s then attorney general, John Cornyn, in a news release said needed to be reopened because Quijano’s statements were racially charged. In the other five cases, new punishment hearings were held and each convict again was sentenced to death. Cornyn, a Republican, is now the state’s senior US senator. Buck’s lawyers contended that the attorney general, by then Cornyn’s successor Greg Abbott, broke a promise by contesting his case.
Buck’s lawyers also stressed that race must play no role in a criminal or capital sentence, reports CNN.