Then, not long ago, I read about the case of Buck v. Davis, decided by the Supreme Court on Feb. 22. Duane Buck had been convicted of capital murder in 1997. He killed his ex-girlfriend and one of her friends. The details of the crime are appalling, but no less appalling is that Dr. Walter Quijano discussed Mr. Buck’s race as a factor in determining his future dangerousness. African-Americans, Dr. Quijano argued, are more likely to commit acts of violence. Though Dr. Quijano opined that Mr. Buck was not a risk of future dangerousness, his testimony about race remained an element for the jury to consider.
Dr. Quijano has given similar testimony in other death penalty cases since 1991. Prompted by the Supreme Court’s decision in Saldaño v. Texas (2000), which vacated the sentence of Victor Hugo Saldaño because Dr. Quijano had testified that Mr. Saldaño’s Hispanic ethnicity made him a greater risk of future dangerousness, State Attorney General John Cornyn promised that his office would not object if the other defendants (Mr. Buck among them) sought to overturn their death sentences based on Dr. Quijano’s testimony. In Mr. Buck’s case, though, they did object, claiming that since it was the defense attorney who put Dr. Quijano on the stand and allowed his testimony into the record without objection, the State of Texas owed the defendant nothing.
I called Mr. Buck’s attorney Christina Swarns, litigation director of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund Inc., to discuss the case.
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