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U.S. Supreme Court Stays Execution of Man Attorneys Say Was Unfairly Sentenced Due to Question About Race During Trial
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Yesterday, just hours before it was scheduled to take place, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the execution of Duane Buck, aged 48, after his attorneys appealed his sentence, saying it was unfair because of a question asked during the trial about his race. Buck is black.

According to the September 15th msnbc.com article, “Supreme Court halts killer’s execution in Texas”, during Buck’s trial, psychologist Walter Quijano testified “that black criminals are more likely to be violent again in the future.” When considering a death sentence, Texas jurors must decide if someone “could be a continuing threat to society” – one of three questions they must take into consideration.

  
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Buck was convicted in 1997 of a murdering Debra Gardner and Kenneth Butler. Buck was convicted of shooting his former girlfriend, Gardner, and her alleged boyfriend, Butler, after Buck’s relationship ended with Gardner the week before in July 1995.  Gardner and Butler were with friends at Gardner’s house on July 30. Buck shot them both with a shotgun, killing Butler first, then Gardner, while Gardner’s children witnessed the shooting. Buck also shot his sister, but she survived.

Police arrested Buck at the scene, and according to the police report, Buck, when being arrested, laughed and said of Gardner: “The bitch deserved what she got.”

The issue at hand is not whether or not Buck committed the murders, it’s that his attorneys feel the jury may have been unfairly influenced, and that Buck should have a new hearing for sentencing.

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Per the msnbc.com article, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said in a 2000 news release that six capital case sentences, including Buck’s, should be reviewed because of Quijano’s testimony at their trials.

The five other cases were reopened, reviewed, the sentencing hearings repeated, and the defendants again were sentenced to death. Per the msbnc.com article, prosecutors believe Buck’s case is different from these and “that the racial reference was a small part of a larger testimony about the prison population.”



An appeal for clemency was put before Texas Gov. Rick Perry, staunch supporter of capital punishment. Perry is currently the Republican favored for the GOP presidential nomination. During Perry’s 11 years in office, 235 convicted killers have been put to death in Texas. Also during that time, he has only chosen to halt four executions, including one for an inmate who was subsequently put to death.

Given Perry’s support of capital punishment, as well as the fact that he said during a presidential debate that “he has never been troubled by any of the executions he’s overseen as governor”, per the msnbc.com article, has thrust Perry into politically charged territory; those opposed to capital punishment are watching his actions closely.



 

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