In a last-minute decision on Thursday evening, the U.S. Supreme Court halted the execution of Duane Buck as the fairness of Buck’s sentencing trial continues to be investigated.
According to CBS News, the decision comes as a surprise considering that the Supreme Court rarely intervenes in state executions, especially in cases where the guilt of the defendant is not in question. However, the clear taint of racially-biased witness testimony and other discrepancies in the sentencing and appeal process warranted a stay in Buck’s execution.
During Buck’s sentencing trial, psychologist Walter Quijano testified before jurors that African Americans posed a higher risk of repeat violence than white offenders. This crucial testimony that led to Buck’s death sentence “needed review” because of its discriminatory nature, according to a 2000 statement released by John Cornyn, Texas’ then attorney general. And of the five other cases that included Quijano’s testimony, each defendant was granted a new sentencing hearing.
In addition to petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court, Buck’s legal team also petitioned Governor Rick Perry for a “30-day reprieve on the execution to give time for all parties to look at his case, but Perry did not act.” Despite this inaction, the intervention of the U.S. Supreme Court will guarantee more time for state officials to consider his case, not necessarily a new sentencing trial.
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