It should have been a simple fix. Instead, Texas has chosen to embrace a death sentence that’s the clear product of racial discrimination.
For the uninitiated, the ongoing Duane Buck case has been an egregious example of racial bias in the criminal justice system. In 1997, at Mr. Buck’s capital sentencing hearing in Harris County, Texas, the trial prosecutor elicited testimony from a psychologist that Mr. Buck posed a future danger because he’s black. The prosecutor then relied on this testimony in arguing in favor of the death penalty, and the jury sentenced him to death.
At first, there was hope Texas would rectify this mistake. Three years after Duane Buck’s sentence, then-Texas Attorney General (now U.S. Senator) John Cornyn identified seven cases in which Texas relied on testimony linking race to future dangerousness, including Mr. Buck’s. Recognizing the error, Cornyn promised not to oppose new sentencing hearings for these seven defendants, and Texas upheld this promise in all of the cases—except for Duane Buck’s.
Now, given another chance to remedy the situation, the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals has dropped the ball again, denying Duane Buck’s appeal for a new sentencing hearing on Wednesday. With this most recent ruling, the Harris County District Attorney’s office could seek an execution date any time, and Duane Buck’s life is at stake once more.
As might be expected, this shocking case—and its most recent development—have provoked a large outcry in Texas and across the nation, from the civil rights community to faith leaders, elected officials, and numerous other prominent individuals. Even one of Mr. Buck’s trial prosecutors and the surviving victim in the case support granting him a new, fair sentencing hearing.
Duane Buck’s only hope now is for people in Texas and across the nation to join this chorus of people calling on the Harris County District Attorney to not seek a new execution date and to allow Mr. Buck a new sentencing hearing free of racial bias. A growing online petition, which you can sign here, demands just that.
If you believe that we must not tolerate sending a man to death based on the color of his skin, or if you value the integrity of our criminal justice system at all, then make your voice heard—sign the petition.
Tell the District Attorney to uphold the promise made by former Attorney General John Cornyn and not seek an execution date. The fairness of our justice system depends on it.
Tags: #Duane Buck