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Man on death row because in Texas, being black means you’re dangerous?

Justice should be blind. It should be blind to race, income, class and other factors. However, in the case of Duane Buck, race played a major factor in his death sentence for capital murder.

In 1997, Buck was convicted for the capital murder of his former girlfriend, Debra Gardner, and her friend, Kenneth Butler. Buck was also convicted ofshooting his step-sister, Phyllis Taylor, in the same incident.

During the capital murder sentencing, through testimony of Texas state licensed psychologist Dr. Walter Quijano, Buck’s race became the centerpiece to the implementation of the death penalty. Shockingly, the Supreme Court cited that the race factor was the fault of Buck’s lawyers because they called Quijano as their witness. However, the Supreme Court would not order his case to be resentenced, like several other similarly situated defendants.

From the Texas Defender Service:

Defense Attorney: You have determined that the sex factor, that a male is more violent than a female because that’s just the way it is, and that the race factor, black increases the future dangerousness for various complicated reasons; is that correct?

Quijano: Yes.

In June 2000, then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn named six capital murder defendants due for resentencing; Duane Buck was one of them. Cornyn knew that injustices occurred with the sentencing phases of these trials due to the psychologist’s testimony that race was a factor in reoffending probabilities. Dr. Walter Quijano testified improperly in all six cases that being black was a reason the defendants would likely reoffend. Therefore, his testimony improperly sealed the death penalty sentences for each one. Five of the cases were required to reopen for the sentencing phase, but Buck’s was not one of them.

 

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