A newly edited video about Texas death-row prisoner Duane Buck has just been released, and is a must-watch for anyone following issues of racial disparity in the administration of criminal justice.
As the New York Times editorialized, Duane Buck could be executed "at least in part because he is black."
Mr. Buck's 1997 trial in Houston, Texas, was marked by exceptionally poor legal representation, as is frequently the case when the poor go on trial. Under Texas law, a defendant can be sentenced to death only if a jury finds that the defendant presents a "future danger." Mr. Buck's own attorneys inexplicably introduced a now-discredited "expert" psychologist who testified Mr. Buck was more likely to be dangerous in the future because he is black.
After hearing four separate times that Mr. Buck's race made him more likely to be dangerous--and without hearing any objection by any of the attorneys or the judge in the courtroom--the jury concluded that Mr. Buck posed a future danger and he was sentenced to death.
In the video, A Broken Promise in Texas: Race, the Death Penalty and the Duane Buck Case, important and unlikely voices call for a new, fair sentencing hearing for Mr. Buck, including former Governor Mark White, who narrates the video, and one of Mr. Buck's trial prosecutors, former Harris County Assistant District Attorney Linda Geffin.
Only the United States Supreme Court can ensure that Mr. Buck is a given a fair sentencing hearing free of racial bias. The Court should do so and give the criminal justice system a much-needed push closer to equal justice for all. As the Los Angeles Times editorialized last week:
A man was sentenced to death at least in part because of his race--a violation of his constitutional rights--and is now being denied the ability to challenge that miscarriage of justice because of bad counsel and a procedural technicality. If those don't constitute "extraordinary circumstances," then what does?