Yesterday, Hon. Mark L. Earley, Hon. Timothy K. Lewis, Hon. Gregory B. Craig, and Hon. Sheila Jackson Lee filed a “friend of the court” brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the appeal of Texas death-sentenced prisoner, Duane Buck. Mr. Buck, an African-American man, was sentenced to death after his own attorneys introduced “expert” testimony and an “expert” report stating that Mr. Buck is more likely to be dangerous in the future because he is Black. In Texas, a jury finding of future dangerousness is a prerequisite for a death sentence. The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. represents Mr. Buck, along with the Texas Defender Service and Holland & Knight.
This unique, bipartisan brief emphasizes the fact that Mr. Buck’s sentencing jury was told four distinct times that Mr. Buck’s race made him more likely to be dangerous in the future and explains that Mr. Buck’s case therefore demands Supreme Court review because the “noxious and deeply prejudicial use of race [in Mr. Buck’s sentencing] . . . has no place in our criminal justice system.” Although the signatories “have different perspectives on the death penalty,” they “deeply share the conviction that no sentence – especially a death sentence – may be based on a record that includes an explicit invocation of race as a justification for the sentence.” They further argue that “an essential role of [the Supreme Court] is to ensure that such a miscarriage of justice does not go uncorrected.” (p. 3)
Hon. Mark L. Earley is the former Republican Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Hon. Timothy K. Lewis was appointed by George H.W. Bush to be Circuit Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and previously served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Hon. Gregory B. Craig served as Counsel to President Barack Obama in 2009 and 2010. Hon. Sheila Jackson Lee is a Democrat representing Texas’s 18th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.
Mr. Buck’s case returns to the Supreme Court at a pivotal moment in history, when the United States is grappling with the problem of racial bias in the criminal justice system. While Mr. Buck’s case stands as a stark example of the explicit racial bias that can, and does, infect the administration of criminal justice, it also offers the Supreme Court a clear and powerful opportunity to demonstrate that the American justice system will not condone such injustice. Thus, if the Supreme Court agrees to review Mr. Buck’s case, it can serve as a vehicle for restoring trust and integrity to the system.
If the Supreme Court does not grant Mr. Buck’s petition, he could face imminent execution based on a death sentence that is a direct product of flagrant racial bias and shockingly incompetent lawyering.
The amicus brief can be accessed here.
Mr. Buck’s Petition for Certiorari can be accessed here.
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. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.