To even the most casual observer, it is clear that Texas’ justice system is plagued by serious racial inequalities. The case of Duane Buck is an outrageous example of racial discrimination in Texas’ death penalty. At Mr. Buck’s capital sentencing hearing sixteen years ago, the prosecutor elicited testimony from a psychologist who said Mr. Buck posed a future danger to society because he’s black. Based on this testimony, the prosecutor then urged the jury to issue a death sentence — which they did. Neither the judge nor Mr. Buck’s attorney at the time objected to this testimony, belying a larger national problem in which defense for the indigent is horribly lacking and under-funded.
This testimony was so egregious that in 2000, Senator John Cornyn, who was then Texas’ Attorney General, identified seven cases in which the state unconstitutionally relied on testimony linking race to future dangerousness. All of the defendants — except Mr. Buck — were awarded new sentencing hearings. Mr. Buck was arbitrarily and unfairly singled out in this instance.