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September 1, 2011

Defense raising notable race claims for Texas death row inmate soon scheduled for execution

This new Austin American-Statesman piece, which is headlined "Petition: Condemned man's sentence racially tinged," reports on a notable race-based argument being used to try to stop a scheduled Texas execution.  Here is how the piece starts:

In 2000, then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn said seven death row inmates had been unfairly sentenced to death because improper racial testimony had been presented at their trials.  "It is inappropriate to allow race to be considered as a factor in our criminal justice system," Cornyn, now a U.S. senator, said at the time.

Six of those inmates later got new sentencing hearings. But a seventh — Duane Edward Buck, convicted of a 1995 Harris County double murder — did not.  Buck, 48, is scheduled to die Sept. 15. On Wednesday, Buck's lawyers petitioned the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. Rick Perry to stop the execution.

Buck's lawyers with the Texas Defender Service have also asked current Attorney General Greg Abbott and Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos to agree to cancel the execution date, said Andrea Keilan, director of the service.  "It's very rare to see an attorney general concede error in a capital case, much less a series of capital cases," Keilan said.  "It shouldn't be controversial, and yet no one has stepped forward" to give Buck a new sentencing trial.

The seven cases identified by Cornyn were all tainted by testimony by psychologist Walter Quijano, who regularly told juries that defendants were more likely to commit future criminal acts because they were black or Hispanic.  He based his testimony on the fact that blacks and Hispanics are overrepresented in the Texas prison system when compared with the state's general population.

September 1, 2011 at 05:12 PM | Permalink

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