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Duane Buck Death Penalty Case Argued Before the Supreme Court

10/05/16

Duane Buck Death Penalty Case Argued Before the Supreme Court

Today, Christina Swarns, Director of Litigation for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), appeared before the Supreme Court, giving a powerful argument in Buck v. Davis, a case involving the racially-charged death sentence of Duane Buck.

In order to impose a death sentence in Texas, a jury must be convinced that the defendant is likely to commit violent acts in the future. During the sentencing phase of his trial, Mr. Buck’s own attorney introduced so-called expert testimony that Mr. Buck was more likely to be dangerous in the future because he is Black, a conclusion rooted in nothing more than a pernicious, antiquated stereotype.

In today’s argument, Ms. Swarns laid out a powerful case for why the rule of law demands a new sentencing hearing for Mr. Buck free from racial bias. Ms. Swarns deftly fielded detailed questions from the Justices about the record, and tackled key issues with clarity, force, and full command. She powerfully framed the case within historical context and within the context of the contemporary moment in which we as a nation find ourselves. 

“Christina Swarns’ argument before the Supreme Court was powerful, persuasive, and in the proudest tradition of LDF’s courtroom advocacy,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

“We are at a profound national moment of reckoning with the role that racism continues to play in our criminal justice system. In Buck, the Supreme Court will have to decide whether it will allow Texas to depart from the Court’s consistent admonition that race may play no role in how justice is meted out by our criminal justice system,” Ifill added.

Listen to Christina Swarns' argument here.

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Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.