TX: Duane Buck - Texas court denies appeal
Thu Nov 21, 2013 16:00

WEDNESDAY, NOV 20, 2013 08:51 PM CET
Texas court denies appeal to death sentence determined by race
Testimony from a psychologist in 1997 said Duane Buck posed a risk to society because he was black

In Duane Buck’s capital trial in Texas in 1997, a psychologist testified that the man charged with triple murder posed a future risk to society because he was black. With the color of his skin contributing to his capital conviction, Buck was sentenced to death.

As Texas Attorney General in 2000, now senator John Cornyn identified seven cases in the state, including Buck’s, in which race played a determining factor in capital sentencing. All six other defendants in these cases have been given new sentencing hearings. On Wednesday, however, a Texas court denied Buck a new sentencing hearing.

A statement from Buck’s attorney’s expressed grave disappointment at the court’s decision, which essentially upholds a sentencing verdict expressly undergirded by racial prejudices. Attorney Kate Black, Christina Swarns, Director of the Criminal Justice Practice at NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, and Kathryn Kase, Executive Director of Texas Defender Service jointly stated:

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 prosecutorial 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.”

Buck’s case reminds us of the vile prevalence of racism in the determination of state executions. In 1997, when Buck received a capital conviction in Texas’ Harris County, the District Attorney’s Office was found to be over three times more likely to seek the death penalty against black defendants than against similarly-situated white defendants; Harris County juries were more than twice as likely to impose death sentences on black defendants in similarly framed cases.

The U.S. Supreme Court stayed Buck’s scheduled 2011 execution on the very grounds that racial prejudice had played a role in his sentencing. SCOTUS ruled that Buck’s case deserved review since “our criminal justice system should not tolerate” a death sentence “marred by racial overtones.” Yet, Texas — the leading execution state — today denied Buck an appeal to justice not explicitly drenched in racism.

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

  • TX: Duane Buck: what happens next?Petra, Sun Aug 11 12:37
    Duane Buck: what happens next? Duane Buck was granted a 30-day reprieve in Texas on Thursday night, but a series of legal obstacles remains before his execution is commuted to a life sentence Dominic ... more
    • Race and the Death Penalty in Texas By THE EDITORIAL BOARD - The New York Times APRIL 2, 2016 This month, the Supreme Court will consider whether to hear the appeal of Duane Buck, a black man from... more
      • Re: Duane Buck -Race and the Death Penalty in TexasDudley Sharp, Mon Apr 4 13:27
        Sent to the NYT Editorial Board and 15 NYT reporters. columnists In a message dated 4/3/2016 11:28:10 A.M. Central Daylight Time, writes: To: LETTERS How Irresponsible Can The NYT... more
        • DUANE BUCK TOOK A PLEA DEAL OF LIFE/WITH PAROLE TODAY (4.10.2017) Texas death row inmate Duane Buck has sentence reduced to life after Supreme Court orders retrial Duane Buck, whose death sentence in ... more
          • PetraPetra., Fri Oct 6 13:36
    • Nov. 20, 2013 TEXAS COURTS Appeal dismissed in death row case with racial backdrop by Chuck Lindell The state’s highest criminal court Wednesday dismissed an appeal by death row inmate Duane Buck,... more
    • TX: Duane Buck - Texas court denies appeal — Petra., Thu Nov 21 16:00
      • Race no factorDudley Sharp, Fri Nov 22 05:54
        To show how much race was not a part of any of these cases, all six of those cases were given new punishment phase trials, all six returned with unanimous death penalties, requiring a 72-0 vote (12... more
      • Salon story completely falsedudley sharp, Fri Nov 22 05:36
        The story is ccompletely false. Buck was sentenced to death for two attempted capital murders and two capital murders, which were all premeditated, murdering his ex wife in front of their two... more
        • In a lengthy dissent, Judge Elsa Alcala, joined by Judges Tom Price and Cheryl Johnson, noted that Buck's case was not only infected by racial animus but also by deficient lawyering that failed to... more
          • Racial bias was addressed. Did you not read the opinion? Alcala writes: "As to (Buck's) second claim (based upon racism) , I conclude that (Buck) has failed to make out a prima facie case for... more
            • Do you know about the 3 reasons you've had to die for in Texas in a capital case ? At least one is, the court needs someone who tells the jury, the guy is a further dangerous for the society .... or? ... more
              • Why future danger should be bannedDudley Sharp, Thu Nov 28 14:05
                We know that all violent criminals have some probability of future danger. So what? Proving future danger is an added burden on the prosecutor and provides an additional avenue on appeal for the... more
                • Re: Why future danger should be bannedPetra., Thu Nov 28 14:18
                  Yes I know you want ban all a civil society sees as murder by the state - we call it lynching .... revenge --- just an eye for an eye because you can't handle a lost. You teach killing is ok,... more
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