The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Texas case of Duane Buck, who was sentenced to die in 1997 for shooting his ex-girlfriend Debra Gardner and her friend Kenneth Butler, reported The Marshall Project. His small army of advocates don’t dispute his guilt but argue he is facing the harshest possible punishment primarily “because he is black.”
At his trial, Walter Quijano, a psychologist called by the defense, told jurors that Buck was more likely to commit a violent crime again because of his race. (Death sentences in Texas require that a defendant be judged a “continuing threat to society.”) Quijano later told The Texas Tribune he was describing a statistical relationship, and not a causal connection between race and violence, but Buck’s lawyers say his comments tainted the jury’s decision.
Since then, Buck’s attorneys at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund have turned his case into a symbol for the argument that the administration of the death penalty is rife with racial bias, part of the legacy of lynching and the ultimate manifestation of the racism that permeates the wider criminal justice system. Many capital defense attorneys see their work as an heir to the civil rights movement and a precursor to Black Lives Matter. “It is impossible to take race out of the death penalty because that’s what it’s for,” defense attorney Danalynn Recer said at an American Bar Association conference in Austin, Texas, last month. “We spare the people that we identify with.”
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