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Duane Buck -Race and the Death Penalty in Texas
Sun Apr 3, 2016 12:51
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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 Texas who was sentenced to die for the 1995 murder of his ex-girlfriend and a man who was with her. There is no dispute about his guilt; the issue is how he ended up on death row.

Under Texas law, a person can be sentenced to death only if prosecutors can show that he or she poses a future danger to society. During the trial’s penalty phase, Mr. Buck’s defense lawyer called a psychologist who testified that race is one of the factors associated with future dangerousness. The prosecutor got the psychologist to affirm this on cross-examination, and the jury sentenced Mr. Buck to death.

In other words, Mr. Buck is scheduled to be executed at least in partbecause he is black. Nearly everyone who has had any involvement with Mr. Buck’s case agreed that making this link was wrong — including one of his prosecutors, Texas’ state courts, the federal district and appeals courts, and the Supreme Court itself.

In fact, the psychologist who testified in Mr. Buck’s case also said there was a link between race and dangerousness in five other cases with black or Latino defendants who were sentenced to death. All of those men received new sentencing hearings after Texas’ attorney general at the time, John Cornyn, who is now a United States senator, agreed in 2000 that they were entitled to proceedings free of racial discrimination.

Mr. Buck, however, got no such relief. That’s because it was his lawyer, not the prosecutor, who first elicited the psychologist’s view on the correlation between race and future dangerousness.

That’s an astonishingly flimsy rationale for allowing a state to kill someone. If, as Mr. Cornyn said in 2000, “it is inappropriate to allow race to be considered as a factor in our criminal justice system,” does it matter who brought it up first? It did to the Supreme Court, which declined to review Mr. Buck’s previous appeal in 2011, even though it called the testimony“bizarre and objectionable.”

Mr. Buck is now back before the justices, this time with a claim that his trial lawyer was ineffective. A federal district judge said Mr. Buck’s lawyer “recklessly exposed his client to the risks of racial prejudice,” but still found that his case was not “extraordinary” enough to reopen.

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It’s hard to see how this case isn’t extraordinary. The risk of prejudice is particularly high in Harris County, Tex., where Mr. Buck was sentenced. In a seven-year period that included Mr. Buck’s trial, Harris County prosecutorswere more than three times as likely to seek the death penalty against a black defendant as against a white one. Over the past dozen years, every new death sentence in the county has been imposedon a man of color.

Racism, of course, has been central to the American death penalty from the start. Forty years ago, the Supreme Court reversed its own brief moratorium andpermitted executions to resume, provided that death sentences were not imposed in an “arbitrary or capricious manner.”

Four decades later, the evidence is clear: The death penalty in 2016 is as arbitrary as ever — whether because of racial discrimination, bad lawyering, geographical variations or other factors. There is no way for the justices to rationalize capital punishment — not in Mr. Buck’s case, or any other.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/03/opinion/sunday/race-and-the-death-penalty-in-texas.html

  • 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
    • Duane Buck -Race and the Death Penalty in Texas — Petra., Sun Apr 3 12:51
      • 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, Sharpjfa@aol.com 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
    • 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... more
      • 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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