Friday, September 16, 2011

Supreme Court intervenes in Texas Execution, Takes Perry off the Hook

The U.S. Supreme Court halted yesterday's scheduled execution of Duane Buck, two hours into a six-hour window when he could have been taken to the death chamber, according to the Associated Press. Texas officials, however, did not move forward with the punishment while legal issues were pending.

Buck was sentenced to death for the fatal shootings of his ex-girlfriend and a man in her apartment in July 1995. Buck's attorneys had asked the Supreme Court to halt the execution because of a psychologist's testimony that black people were more likely to commit violence. Buck's guilt is not being questioned, but his lawyers contend the testimony unfairly influenced the jury and Buck should receive a new sentencing hearing, reported the Associated Press.

The Supreme Court acted before Governor Perry was forced to make a decision on the request for a stay.  Attorneys for Buck had also asked the governor/presidential candidate to intervene to delay the execution.  The decision meant Perry did not have to act on a request from Buck's lawyers that the governor use his authority to issue a one-time 30-day reprieve. Perry has presided over more than 230 executions.

Buck's case is one of six 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 racially charged statements made during the sentencing phase. In the other five cases, new punishment hearings were held and each convict again was sentenced to die.

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