Supreme Court Grants Texas Death Row Inmate Chance to Appeal Racist Sentence

Duane Buck - Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Duane Buck
The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Texas death row inmate Duane Buck, granting the convicted murderer a chance to dodge capital punishment. Six of the eight justices agreed that Buck's initial sentencing at trial was marred with racist testimony that likely influenced the outcome.

The court has allowed Buck to ask a lower court for a second hearing — giving Buck (and his lawyers) another chance to argue against capital punishment and, instead, for a life sentence.

Buck, found guilty of murdering two people, was sentenced to death in 1997 after prison psychiatrist Walter Quijano told a jury that Buck would be more dangerous in the future because he is black. While then-Attorney General John Cornyn granted a retrial to other prisoners who were sentenced after Quijano issued similarly prejudiced testimony, he left office before he could do the same for Buck.

Which is why the Supreme Court reversed the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals refusal to grant Buck a second hearing in a Texas court.

In his majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that Quijano's testimony in Buck's case "coincided precisely with a particularly noxious strain of racial prejudice."

"Our laws punish people for what they do," he wrote. "Not for who they are."

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