Was Duane Buck Sentenced to Death Because He's Black? Will It Matter?

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Photo from the NAACP LDF
Was Duane Buck sentenced to death because he's black?
During Duane Buck's 1997 murder trial in Harris County, a psychologist told the jury that Buck was more likely to be a danger to society because he was black.

This would be a huge deal in pretty much any legal situation, but the statement had more direct life or death ramifications in Buck's trial because the jurors were deciding on whether to hand down the death penalty.

He was sentenced to death by lethal injection for the murders of his ex-girlfriend, Debra Gardner, and a man who was with her, Kenneth Butler. He also shot his stepsister, Phyllis Taylor, but Taylor survived. The big question here has never been about Buck's guilt but about his death sentence.

A few years after Buck was convicted, the psychologist, Walter Quijano, was cited by then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn for giving racially influenced testimony to juries. Cornyn, now a U.S. senator, identified seven cases that needed to be reviewed for sentencing and Buck's is one of them.

While Cornyn named seven cases to be reviewed, Buck's and one other case were not because the defense lawyer, not the prosecution, asked Quijano questions that hinged on the subject of race, Sara Kinney, public information officer for the Harris County District Attorney's Office said. (Basically, since the defense brought the issue in, the prosecution isn't responsible for their mistake.)

He was slated to be executed in September 2011 when the U.S. Supreme Court intervened; granting a rare stay while the justices reviewed the case. (The Supreme Court also got the ball rolling on this whole issue years ago, finding that race was improperly used in sentencing Victor Saldano. Quijano was the psychologist who testified on that case as well.)

The justices ultimately declined to hear the case, but Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented on and Justice Elena Kagan joined up on Sotomayor's dissent.

"Buck did not argue that his race made him less dangerous, and the prosecutor had no need to revisit the issue," Sotomayor wrote. "But she did, in a question specifically designed to persuade the jury that Buck's race made him more dangerous and that, in part on this basis, he should be sentenced to death."

No matter what Sotomayor and Kagan expressed in their dissent of the Supreme's decision, declining to hear the case put Buck back on track for execution and now his attorneys are waiting to see if the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will grant a new sentencing hearing.


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7 comments
dudleysharp
dudleysharp

Duane Buck: Racism Claims Are Total Fabrication
Dudley Sharp
 
Falsely invoking racism, as with the Duane Buck case, is just another example of how death penalty opponents will apply any deception, no matter how vile,  to achieve their ends (1).
 
The problem for Buck and his supporters is that Dr. Quijano's entire testimony, with regard to Buck, specifically, was that Buck was at reduced risk of being a future danger, the opposite of the death penalty opponents claims. No surprise.
 
From US Supreme  Court Justice Sotomayor's dissent, IN FAVOR OF BUCK: “In this case, first on direct examination by the defense, Dr. Quijano merely identified race as one statistical factor and pointed out that African-Americans were over represented in the criminal justice system; he did not state a causal relationship, nor did he link this statistic to Buck as an individual”   In fact, the opposite occurred. Dr. Quijano's testimony was about Buck's reduced risk of future danger.
The alleged racist component from the trial never existed.   Sotomayor attempted to create a racism based claim, by taking a prosecutor's inference out of context, an inference which never stated that Buck was at future danger based upon race, as Dr. Quijano stated that Buck was at reduced risk of re offending and never stated that Buck had an elevated risk because of race.
 
"Moreover, the prosecutor did not revisit the race-related testimony in closing or ask the jury to find future dangerousness based on Buck’s race." (2).   Even Texas Court Of Criminal Appeals (TCCA) Justice Alcala  (3) , who dissented, IN FAVOR OF Buck, recognized Sotomayor's obvious error:
 
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 discriminatory intent in the prosecution's decision to seek the death penalty in his case." (3).  "intent".
 
Alcala thought this such  a minor issue that she didn't even bother to respond to the claim in the body of her opinion, but only in a footnote (3).
That is how untruthful Buck supporters have been.   Death Penalty opponents fabricated a dishonest claim of racism. Despicable but  nothing new (1, 5 & 6).
 
balance at
http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/11/duane-buck-false-claims-of-racism-more.html

Angie
Angie

"I've always had supported the death penalty, but I don't support the death penalty for people who are not properly tried and convicted," White stated '

Well he was properly tried and convicted as the statement in question was during sentencing. I'll bet the jury never even heard the black comment because they were so in shock at his actions he had committed. 

If someone wants to put a few more thousand dollars in some lawyers pocket before he's sentenced to death again, I'm okay with that. But just the sentencing part. Not another whole trial.

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

Look at Colorado's 'Death Row' . It's ALL dark in there ....

Bubba
Bubba

Give him a new hearing and execute Quijano in his place.

Bubba
Bubba

Walter Quijano, is probably predisposed against Blacks because he is Latino; if you follow his bullshit logic.

billybadass
billybadass

Why is Buck here? 

I agree his sentencing was questionable, but look at the background on this case. 

"He admits that he, and he alone, broke into his ex-girlfriend’s home on the night of July 30, 1995. Once inside, the first person he encountered was his own step-sister. So he shot her in the chest. Then he shot and killed Butler, a friend of Gardner’s. He then hunted down Gardner, who had fled outside. Gardner tried to stop a passing motorist but was shot as she begged for her life. Gardner’s young daughter watched the murder of her mother, begging Buck not to kill her mom. He didn’t care, and murdered her anyway."

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

When John "I'll Walk Over Your Dead Body For A Come-Up" Cornyn says you need to review a case, really, God has sent you the Burning Bush and the Crazed Holy Man to tell you review the case.

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