Duane Buck, sentenced to death because he’s Black, may be one step closer to execution today. On November 20, 2013, a Texas court denied Mr. Buck’s appeal for a new sentencing hearing. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office could seek an execution date at any time.
In 1997, a jury in Harris County, Texas, sentenced Duane Buck to death. I know because I was one of the prosecutors.
I am speaking out against his execution because the Texas criminal justice system cannot allow considerations of race to be placed in front of the jury, as it was in this case.
I started my petition in the hopes that the District Attorney’s Office will keep the promise made by the former Texas Attorney General to make sure Duane Buck receives a new, color-blind sentencing. The color of a person’s skin should never influence how we punish them in this country. I hope you will join me and tens of thousands of others in asking the Harris County District Attorney to allow a new, fair sentencing hearing for Duane Buck.
The jury was told that Mr. Buck was more likely to pose a future danger to society because he is African American. This inappropriate and offensive reliance on race was so improper that in 2000, the Texas Attorney General said that all seven defendants who had racially inappropriate evidence presented against them were entitled to new, fair, and color-blind sentencing hearings. Mr. Buck is the only one of the seven defendants who has not received a resentencing.
Mr. Buck must be punished for his crime, however, the former Texas Attorney General was correct when he said that ‘it is inappropriate to allow race to be considered as a factor in our criminal justice system.’ Mr. Buck should not stand alone as the only one of the seven defendants who has not received his new sentencing hearing.
The Harris County District Attorney’s Office has a unique moment to demonstrate that Harris County will be guided by equality and justice – particularly when the ultimate punishment is on the line.
Watch a ten minute video where the surviving victim of Duane’s crime explain why she does not want him to be executed: “A Broken Promise in Texas: Race, the Death Penalty and the Duane Buck Case” here: http://youtu.be/tD6WWN38ZGc
Please join me in signing the petition.
I urge you to acknowledge that Duane Buck deserves a new sentencing hearing free of racial bias. Because Mr. Buck’s death sentence was the product of racial discrimination, his execution would undermine the judicial process and reduce public confidence in the criminal justice system.
The jury at Mr. Buck’s capital sentencing was told that he was more likely to pose a future danger to society because he is African American. This offensive reliance on race was so improper that in 2000, the Texas Attorney General said that Mr. Buck – along with six other defendants who had similar evidence presented against them – was entitled to a new, fair and color-blind sentencing hearing. Mr. Buck is the only one of the seven defendants who has not received such a hearing.
It is fundamentally unfair to single out Mr. Buck for execution in light of the evidence of race-based sentencing. No execution should take place until Mr. Buck receives a new, fair sentencing hearing.
Dozens of diverse voices from across Texas and nationwide are calling for a new sentencing hearing for Mr. Buck. The supporters include a former Harris County Assistant District Attorney who prosecuted Mr. Buck and other former prosecutors, national and state civil rights leaders, elected officials, clergy and legal professionals. Even the surviving victim in the case, Phyllis Taylor, has forgiven Mr. Buck and does not want to see him executed.
Racial discrimination has no place in the administration of criminal justice, least of all when the State is seeking to carry out the ultimate punishment.
The public cannot have confidence in the Texas capital punishment system until it is clear that it can, and will, treat all defendants equally, regardless of the color of their skin.
I appeal to your sense of fairness and commitment to justice, and respectfully request that you ensure Duane Buck receives a new, fair sentencing hearing.