Today, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied Duane Buck’s appeal for a new sentencing hearing in a divided opinion. In Mr. Buck’s case, the trial prosecutor elicited the testimony of Dr. Walter Quijano that Mr. Buck posed a greater future danger because he is black, and then urged the jury to impose death, citing Dr. Quijano’s testimony regarding future danger. Three members of the Court described Dr. Quijano’s testimony, as “racist and inflammatory” and said that his comments, together with inadequate lawyering, jeopardized the integrity of Buck’s conviction.
Buck has drawn support from every corner including former prosecutors, judges and a former Texas governor who are calling for a new sentencing hearing where an assessment of Buck’s future dangerousness does not rely on his race.
Natasha Lennard of Salon writes:
“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…
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.”
Buck’s attorneys are asking the Harris County District Attorney’s Office not to seek an execution date for Buck, and will take his case to the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to to get them to intervene in his case.
We previously posted about Buck’s case here, highlighting a study by University of Maryland Professor Ray Paternoster who found that between 1992 and 1999, the Harris County DA’s Office in Texas was over three times more likely to seek the death penalty against African American defendants and four times more likely to seek the death penalty against Hispanic defendants than against similarly situated white defendants.