Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Denies Duane Buck a New Sentencing Hearing

Categories: Courts

Photo from the NAACP LDF
Duane Buck
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has denied Duane Buck's appeal for a new sentencing, meaning an execution date can be set if the Harris County District Attorney's Office chooses to seek an execution date.

Buck was sentenced to death by lethal injection in 1997 for the murders of his ex-girlfriend, Debra Gardner, and the man who was with her, Kenneth Butler. He also shot his stepsister, Phyllis Taylor, but Taylor survived. The big question has never been on Buck's guilt, but on why he was sentenced to death.

During his Harris County murder trial, a psychologist testified that Buck was more of a danger to society because he is African American. 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 was one of them. All of the other cases have been allowed new sentencing hearings, but Buck's has been denied.

His legal team took the matter to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, but the decision handed down in a six to three ruling on Wednesday denied Buck a new sentencing hearing. While Gardner's daughter has stated she doesn't feel like Buck needs a new hearing, the only surviving victim, Taylor, and one of the trial prosecutors, Linda Geffin, have asked for a new sentencing, along with more than 100 civil rights leaders, elected officials, former prosecutors, former Gov. Mark White and faith leaders.

"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," Kate Black, attorney, Christina Swarnis, director of the Criminal Defense Project at the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund, and Kathryn Kase, executive director of the Texas Defender Service, said in a joint statement.

Buck's team is urging the Harris County DA's Office not to seek an execution date for Buck. They plan on asking the U.S. Supreme Court to look into Buck's case with an eye toward due process and equal protection issues.

"We're deeply disappointed. I think that there's just no question that it's not right to seek to use racial bias to obtain a death sentence. Certainly we were hopeful the court would recognize that and take action," Kase said.

Buck's team is still looking at the legal options in the wake of the ruling. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is the highest court in the state to rule on criminal cases, but there are still options in federal court. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately declined to hear Buck's case back in 2011, but his lawyers are hoping to get a review of the case based on due process and equal protection issues.

Jeff McShan with the Harris County District Attorney's Office said they are still looking at the ruling and discussing what the next step will be on their side.

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Duane Buck: Racism Claims Are Total Fabrication

Dudley Sharp   The problem for Buck and Justice Sotomayor is that Quijano's entire testimony, with regard to Buck, specifically, was that he was at reduced risk of being a future danger.

To repeat, from Sotomayor: “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”

The alleged racist component from the trial never existed.

"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).   In fact, the prosecutor's alleged race based comment NEVER mentioned race, at all.   Death penalty opponents just manufactured a racist component. How despicable.   balance at   http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/11/duane-buck-false-claims-of-racism-more.html


No racial bias in Duane Buck's case

  BOLD my emphasis. "Quotes"  from denial of certiorari, US Supreme Court:   "The witness, Dr. Walter Quijano, testified that (Buck), if given a noncapital sentence, WOULD NOT PRESENT A DANGER TO SOCIETY." (1).   Repeatedly, defense counsel and the two defense experts made it clear that BUCK DID NOT FIT INTO THE CATEGORY OF BLACK MALES THAT WERE MORE LIKELY TO RE OFFEND AND THAT BUCK WAS AT A REDUCED RISK TO RE OFFEND.   Never was it presented to the jury that because Buck was black and/or male, that he was more likely to re offend because of that. All of the evidence, for Buck,  was to the contrary.   “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; (Quijano) DID NOT STATE A CAUSAL RELATIONSHIP (BY RACE OR GENDER), NOR DID HE LINK THIS STATISTIC TO BUCK AS AN INDIVIDUAL."(1).   
"On direct examination, Quijano referred to RACE AS PART OF HIS OVERALL OPINION THAT BUCK WOULD POSE A LOW THREAT TO SOCIETY WERE HE IMPRISONED." (1).   "Although the dissent suggests that the District Court may have been misled by the State’s inaccurate statements, the District Court, in denying petitioner’s motion under Rule 60 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, was fully aware of what had occurred in all of these cases. It is for these reasons that I conclude that certiorari should be denied." (1).   There were six other death penalty cases, wherein  Dr. Quijano testified, that some minorities and males were more likely to be a future danger.   In those  6 re sentencing trials, all received the death penalty, again, a solid rebuttal to any claim that race/gender testimony, in any of the cases,  was a factor in the prior jury decisions to give death.   Just as with Buck, it was the nature of the crimes and other non racial/gender factors which convinced 156 jurors in those 13 trials to, unanimously, award the death penalty.   "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." (1).   THE PROSECUTOR DID NOT "ASK THE JURY TO FIND FUTURE DANGEROUSNESS BASED UPON BUCK'S RACE OR GENDER.   Quijano responded affirmatively and truthfully, to the prosecutor's question, regarding that both blacks and males were more likely to be violent and re offend.   "And, on redirect, defense counsel mentioned race ONLY TO MITIGATE the effect on the jury of Dr. Quijano’s prior identification of race as an immutable  factor increasing a defendant’s likelihood of future dangerousness." (1).   When the prosecution presented Buck's probability of future dangerousness, IT WAS NEVER IN THE CONTEXT OF BUCK'S RACE OR GENDER.


Here's the thing.  A licensed psychologist has NO business making a statement that someone's race makes him more likely to reoffend.  Here's the other thing.  The fact that he killed two people and tried to kill a third makes him a candidate for the death penalty.  I don't know what Texas laws are as I don't live there nor am I an expert in law.  I do believe common sense dictates that this needs to be looked at again in a court of law.  However, due to the fact that he did kill two people and try to kill another the outcome will probably be the same.


I'm not sure what frightens me more...that a licensed psychologist actually made that statement and that a judge allowed it or that the Texas court of criminal appeals didn't find something VERY wrong with this case. 


Let's pencil him in for Monday. He's stalled for too long already.

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