Duane Buck removed from death row; racial bias tainted case

In a court hearing in Harris County on Tuesday, October 3, 2017, Duane Buck pled guilty to two counts of attempted murder, including the shooting of his stepsister, in a deal that exchanged the death penalty for a life sentence plus two 60-year terms.  He will be removed from Texas death row, where he has spent the last 20 years.

Duane Buck was condemned to death in 1997 for killing his ex-girlfriend Debra Gardner and Kenneth Butler. His own trial attorneys inexplicably introduced testimony and a report from a psychologist, Dr. Walter Quijano, who stated that Buck was more likely to be dangerous in the future because he is black.  After years of appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider it.

On February 22, 2017, in a 6-2 decision in Buck v. Davis, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Buck deserved a new sentencing hearing based on the racially biased testimony of Dr.Quijano and the inadequate representation he had received from his trial attorneys.  The Court sent the case back to Harris County for resolution.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg explained in a statement that “After reviewing the evidence and the law, I have concluded that, 22 years after his conviction, a Harris County jury would likely not return another death penalty conviction in a case that has forever been tainted by the indelible specter of race.”

DA Ogg went on to say that “This case can accomplish something. It can close a chapter in the history of our courts, in that they will never again hear that race is relevant to criminal justice or to the determination of whether a man will live or die. Race is not and never has been evidence.”

Read more from the New York Times, the Associated Press (via ABC News), and the Texas Tribune.

You’ll find previous posts on Buck here.