Buck faces execution for shooting two people near Houston in 1995 while under the influence of drugs, but his attorneys say the racially charged testimony calls for a new sentencing hearing.
Buck's guilt is not in doubt, reported the Times. At issue is the sentencing hearing, at which jurors were called upon to decide whether to condemn him to death or to life in prison. Under Texas law, the jury must weigh whether the defendant poses a "future danger."
Dr. Walter Quijano, a psychologist and defense witness, testified that Buck was not likely to be dangerous because he had no previous history of violence.
But a prosecutor cited the "the race factor" and asked whether Buck's being black "increases the future dangerousness." Yes, the psychologist replied. Prosecutors cited that testimony in their closing argument, according to the Times.
More than a decade ago, Texas state attorneys admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court that Quijano had wrongly injected race into the sentencing hearings for seven Texas death row inmates, including Buck.
Seven sentences have been overturned only Buck's sentence remains in place.
"Mr. Buck committed a terrible crime, and he must be punished," said Linda Geffin, a former Harris County assistant district attorney, reported the Times. But, she added, "I felt compelled to step forward" because of "the improper injection of race in the sentencing hearing in Mr. Buck's case."
This week the board recommended against clemency. The governor has limited authority over death cases, but can order a temporary reprieve.
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