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‘Condemned to Die Because He’s Black:’ Charles Ogletree Writes Op-Ed in Support of New Sentencing Hearing for Duane Buck

Thursday, August 1, 2013

‘Condemned to Die Because He’s Black:’ Charles Ogletree Writes Op-Ed in Support of New Sentencing Hearing for Duane Buck

In today’s New York Times, Charles Ogletree Jr., Jesse Climenko Professor of Law at Harvard, has penned a powerful op-ed about Duane Buck and the deeply unfair and unconstitutional biases that plagued his sentencing hearing.

“Nearly 50 years after the end of Jim Crow, African-Americans are still facing execution because of their race…There is no question that this country has made enormous progress since the days when lynchings were commonplace. But Duane Buck’s case reminds us that we still have a long way to go. Mr. Buck cannot be executed based on a death sentence that is the product of racial bias and discrimination. Texas must keep its promise and ensure that Mr. Buck receives a new, fair sentencing hearing. Fixing the problem of race in America’s criminal justice system is complicated. Fixing Mr. Buck’s case is not.”

Duane Buck may soon be facing execution in Harris County (Houston), Texas despite the fact that his death sentence is the clear product of racial discrimination. At Buck’s 1997 capital sentencing hearing, the prosecutor elicited testimony from a psychologist who said Buck posed a future danger to society because he’s black. Based on this testimony, the prosecutor then urged the jury to issue a death sentence – which they did. New research has demonstrated that black defendants in Harris County are 3X more likely to get the death penalty than white defendants in similar cases.

Professor Ogletree’s voice is a powerful one – and this piece adds to the many supporters – including a victim, a former prosecutor, and a former Texas governor -- who have been urging Texas to grant Duane Buck a new hearing free from racial discrimination. In fact, a former prosecutor in the case who seeks to “correct a wrong” started a change.org petition on behalf of Duane Buck. 50,000 people have signed the petition --- help us grow that number!

As former Texas Governor Mark White stated succinctly in a powerful video “A Broken Promise in Texas: Race, the Death Penalty, and the Duane Buck Case, “It’s unfair to have someone on death row if they’re not supposed to be there.” 

Read and share the op-ed and sign the petition!