Attorneys for a Texas man who was sentenced to death after a state witness relied on race in his testimony are fighting to get his sentence changed, or at least get him a new hearing.
When Duane Edward Buck was on trial for capital murder in 1997, a psychologist told jurors that because Buck was black, he was more likely to be violent in the future. His case was one of seven that former Texas Attorney General John Cornyn wanted reviewed because of the state's unconstitutional reliance on race.
New punishment hearings were ordered for the other cases, which were at the federal appellate stage. But because Buck's case was still in state court, it slipped through the cracks. He was never given a retrial and is scheduled to die Sept. 15 for the murders of Debra Gardner and Kenneth Butler.
He also shot Phyllis Taylor, who survived, and is now asking for Buck's life to be spared.
Attorneys for Buck call his case another in a series of chronic mishandlings of the death penalty in Texas, the nation's busiest death penalty state.
"This case is an affront to justice," Kate Black, a lawyer for Buck, said at a Capitol news conference Wednesday. "This is just another shocking example of the fundamental flaws in the Texas death penalty. Racism played an intolerable role in a life-or-death decision."
Cornyn filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 admitting the state's wrongful use of race in the case of Victor Hugo Saldano, one of the other men who had been given the death sentence in part based on the psychologist's racially charged testimony.
Buck's attorneys filed an appeal in federal court. They are seeking to have his sentence reduced to life in prison without the possibility of parole or for a stay of execution so courts can grant him a new sentencing trial.
By Sommer Ingram, Dallas Morning News
Source: San Francisco Chronicle