A Texas jury gave a death sentence to African-American man Duane Edward Buck in 1997. In a strange twist, Buck’s own attorney retained a psychologist who testified at the sentencing phase that Buck’s race made him a danger in the future. That testimony went unchallenged by a different lawyer at a later hearing.
Think Progress reports that for nearly 20 years, the courts have declined to consider whether the psychologist’s racist testimony led to Buck’s death sentence.
Moreover, Think Progress believes Texas will likely execute Buck before a court examines how the now discredited expert witness impacted the jury’s decision.
According to Think Progress, here is what’s at issue in Buck v. Stephens: “whether extraordinary circumstances exist that would permit a lower court to determine whether the racist testimony elicited by his own counsel prejudiced the outcome of his sentencing proceeding.”
Dr. Walter Quijano, the psychologist at the center of the controversy, had a history of testifying that Blacks and Hispanics are dangerous. According to an NAACP legal brief, Texas juries at that time were asked to determine during the sentencing phase whether a convicted murderer was a “future danger” to society.
In 2000, the Texas Attorney General recognized the pattern of Quijano’s testimony and decided not to object to inmates who sought to overturn their death sentence based on Quijano’s racially biased testimony.
However, Think Progress said Texas did not include Buck because his attorney sought and used Quijano’s testimony.
Buck argues that he had not one—but two—incompetent attorneys representing him. His first lawyer “introduced unconstitutional evidence against him,” and his new lawyer failed to challenge that testimony, Think Progress explained.
But there’s hope. Two U.S. Supreme Court cases (Martinez v Ryan and Trevino v. Thaler) have opened the door to a possible appeal.
SOURCE: Think Progress | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty