What You’re Not Hearing about the Pending Execution of Duane Buck in Texas

by Greg Pollowitz

Governor Perry is being asked by anti–death penalty groups to halt Buck’s execution over testimony at the sentencing hearing that suggested Buck’s race made him a “future danger to the public.” The AP reports:

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — Attorneys for a man scheduled to be put to death in Texas on Thursday are asking Gov. Rick Perry to halt the execution amid questions about the role race played in the sentencing.

Duane Buck’s case is one of six convictions that then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn — a political ally of Perry who is now a Republican U.S. senator — reviewed in 2000 and said needed to be reopened because of the racially charged statements made during the sentencing phase of the trial. A psychologist told jurors that black criminals were more likely to pose a future danger to the public if they are released.

Perry, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, is an ardent supporter of capital punishment. During his 11 years in office, 235 convicted killers have been put to death in Texas. His office says he has chosen to halt just four executions, including one for a woman who was later put to death.

If courts continue to reject Buck’s appeals, only Perry could delay the lethal injection by invoking his authority to issue a one-time 30-day reprieve for further review. Perry’s actions are being closely watched, particularly by death penalty opponents, after he said during a presidential debate that he has never been troubled by any of the executions he’s overseen as governor.

In the five other cases Cornyn said needed to be reopened, prosecutors repeated the sentencing hearings and the defendants were again sentenced to death. Prosecutors contend Buck’s case was different from those and that the racial reference was a small part of a larger testimony about the prison population.

The rest of the AP piece here, including the gory details of Buck’s crime.

A couple major items that need to be highlighted here. First, nobody is arguing that Buck is innocent of the crime, including Buck who has admitted guilt; and second, the testimony in question is from a defense witness:

Dr. Walter Quijano, a psychologist the defense called as a witness, said that Buck would not likely be a future danger to society. But during cross-examination, prosecutors asked Quijano whether he believed the fact that Buck was black increased his potential threat to society. Quijano said yes. The jury sentenced Buck to death.

So, in the future, a defense witness can intentionally slip something into his testimony that the defense can claim at a later date prejudices its client?

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