The connection between race and capital punishment has been a hot topic this year, and it’s likely to remain one after a new study found a shocking pattern in the way one Texas county sentences people to die.
Of the last 13 men that have been sentenced to death in Harris County, 12 of them are black, according to an analysis of prison and prosecution records by the Houston Chronicle. The discovery has prompted some local lawyers to ask for an investigation and calls for more debate around the administration of capital punishment.
“The more the defendant looks like you the harder it is to kill him — human nature being what it is,” said Robert Murrow, one of the county’s capital defense attorneys. “It’s something we have to be thinking about. It’s an issue we never should get too far out of the front of our consciousness.”
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The role of race in death penalty sentencing became a major issue in the county when the U.S. Supreme Court halted the execution of Duane Buck, after reviewing the testimony of a psychologist who said during the trial that black people were more likely to commit violence. Buck’s appeal of his pending execution was rejected last week. Although the inmate’s supporters pleaded with Harris County District Attorney Patricia Lykos, she told The Chronicle she has not yet made a decision.
“Before we take any action, we will carefully evaluate the arguments of Mr. Buck’s lawyers and his supporters,” she told the news source. “He will receive fair and thorough consideration of his claims.”