Today, over 100 prominent individuals from Texas and throughout the country, including civil rights leaders, elected officials, former prosecutors and judges, past and present ABA presidents, and clergy representing seven faith denominations, released a statement urging the Harris County District Attorney to provide a new, fair sentencing hearing for Texas death row inmate Duane Buck. Former Texas Governor Mark White, one of the signatories, delivered the statement to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office in Houston this morning. Read the Statement of Support and view the full list of 102 signatories.
In 1997, Mr. Buck was convicted of fatally shooting Debra Gardner and Kenneth Butler. During his sentencing hearing, the prosecutor elicited testimony from Dr. Walter Quijano before the jury in which he indicated that African Americans, like Mr. Buck, are more likely to commit future acts of violence. Under Texas’ death penalty statute, prosecutors must demonstrate a defendant’s “future dangerousness” and juries may impose a death sentence only if they find that the defendant poses such a future danger. In her closing argument at Mr. Buck’s sentencing, the prosecutor urged the jury to impose a death sentence and, in doing so, relied on Dr. Quijano’s testimony that Mr. Buck would be dangerous in the future. The jury followed the prosecutor’s recommendation: it found that Mr. Buck posed a future danger and sentenced him to death.
Mr. Buck’s life was spared by the U.S. Supreme Court before his scheduled execution in September 2011. Although two U.S. Supreme Court justices agreed that Mr. Buck’s death sentence required review because “our criminal justice system should not tolerate” a death sentence “marred by racial overtones,” the case is now back in the hands of state officials.
Join more than 100 local, state, and national leaders in calling for a new sentencing hearing for Duane Buck!
Another signatory to the statement, former Harris County District Attorney Linda Geffin, one of Mr. Buck’s trial prosecutors, today started an online petition on Change.org in support of a new, fair sentencing hearing for Mr. Buck. Sign the petition now!