A Texas death row inmate who has been fighting for an appeal in his capital punishment case was denied the opportunity for a new trial today. Despite testimony from a psychologist displaying obvious racial bias during his trial back in the late 1990s, Duane Buck‘s case was heard by a divided Texas Court of Criminal Appeals which split in favor of the denial.
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Buck, 50, was sentenced to death row in 1997 after the double murder of an ex-girlfriend and man at the woman’s apartment. The prosecutor in the case called on a psychologist to deliver testimony where the medical professional stated Buck posed a danger to society because he is Black.
The jury sided with the psychologist’s testimony and sentenced him to death.
Buck’s attorneys issued a statement earlier today regarding the latest legal hurdle placed in front of them, speaking on behalf of their client and his supporters who demand a fair trial:
“We are gravely disappointed that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has dismissed Duane Buck’s appeal and failed to recognize that his death sentence is the unconstitutional product of racial discrimination. As noted by three members of the Court, ‘[t]he record in this case reveals a chronicle of inadequate representation at every stage of the proceedings, the integrity of which is further called into question by the admission of racist and inflammatory testimony from an expert witness at the punishment stage.’ These judges recognized that this outcome ‘jeopardizes both the integrity of the underlying conviction and of this Court’s judicial processes’ and deprives Mr. Buck of ‘one full and fair opportunity to present his claims.’
“With today’s decision, Texas has once again reneged on its promise to ensure that Mr. Buck would not be executed pursuant to a death sentence that was the unfair product of a prosecutor appeal to racial bias and stereotype. ,For this reason, more than one hundred civil rights leaders, clergy of various faiths, former judges, former prosecutors, and thousands of individuals in Texas and across the world, have joined our call for a new, fair, and colorblind sentencing for Duane Buck. We now urge the Harris County District Attorney’s Office to respect these calls and refrain from seeking an execution date for Mr. Buck. We will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the important due process and equal protection issues at stake in Mr. Buck’s case, and we are hopeful that the Supreme Court will intervene to right this unequivocal wrong.”
- Attorney Kate Black, Christina Warns, Director of the Criminal Justice Practice at NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, and Kathryn Kase, Executive Director of Texas Defender Service
Watch video on the Duane Buck case below:
In 2000, then-Texas Attorney General (and now U.S. Senator) John Cornyn reviewed seven cases where the state gave individuals sentences based on the racially charged testimony linking Blacks to “future dangerousness.”
The AG promised then to not offer opposition to the individuals in gaining new hearings. All have had new sentences since then, save for Buck. In 2011, the Supreme Court granted Buck a stay of execution but would not allow him to have a new trial.
A Change.org petition has been signed by over 53,000 supporters thus far, and includes a timeline and other items related to the case. With this latest action from the Court of Appeals, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office can set an execution date at any time.
To learn more about Duane Buck’s case, click here.
To read the dissent from the court, click here.