This month, the Supreme Court will consider whether to hear the appeal of Duane Buck, a black man from Texas who was sentenced to die for the 1995 murder of his exgirlfriend and a man who was with her. There is no dispute about his guilt; the issue is how he ended up on death row.
Under Texas law, a person can be sentenced to death only if prosecutors can show that he or she poses a future danger to society. During the trial’spenalty phase, Mr. Buck’s defense lawyer called a psychologist who testified that race is one of the factors associated with future dangerousness. The prosecutor got the psychologist to affirm this on crossexamination, and the jury sentenced Mr. Buck to death.
In other words, Mr. Buck is scheduled to be executed at least in part because he is black. Nearly everyone who has had any involvement with Mr.Buck’s case agreed that making this link was wrong — including one of his prosecutors, Texas’ state courts, the federal district and appeals courts, and the Supreme Court itself.
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