The U.S. Supreme Court stopped the execution of a Texas murderer Thursday who was sentenced to death by jurors who were told he was a bigger threat to public safety because he is black.
The justices issued the order after receiving an emergency appeal in the case of Duane Edward Buck, a 48-year-old mechanic who was on death row for the 1995 killing of an ex-girlfriend and a man. Attorneys for Buck said they did not dispute his guilt, but rather took issue with the fact that prosecutors used Buck’s race as leverage to argue for a death sentence.
The stay came two hours into a six-hour window during which Buck had been scheduled to die, and after Texas Gov. Rick Perry and state judges failed to intervene. —BF
Los Angeles Times:
In Buck’s emergency appeal to the Supreme Court, his attorneys said, “Racial bias mars the integrity of the judicial system. An execution under these circumstances will do irreparable harm to the criminal justice system in general.”
The dispute dates back to 2000, when then-Texas Atty. Gen. John Cornyn acknowledged to the Supreme Court that prosecutors had violated the Constitution by relying on race-based arguments in six death penalty cases. Buck’s case was one of them, and he was the only one who did not receive a new sentencing hearing.
The other cases had been pending in federal court, while Buck’s was in state court. Later, after Cornyn was elected to the U.S. Senate and a new attorney general took over, state prosecutors argued that Buck’s rights were not violated, and they won in the lower courts.
Last week, Perry said during a GOP presidential debate that he “never struggled” over the death penalty because “the state of Texas has a very thoughtful, very clear process in place.” During Perry’s 11 years in office, the state has carried out 235 executions.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice