The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday temporarily spared the death penalty for Duane Buck, an inmate on Texas' death row, on grounds that the jury at his sentencing hearing was told he's a public danger because of his race.
Buck, a 48-year-old black man, was convicted of a double murder in Texas 16 years ago. The court made the decision to spare him from lethal injection and agreed to look into his lawyers' claims that race played a role in his sentencing. Buck was sentenced to death for fatally shootings his ex-girlfriend and a man in her apartment in July 1995.
The Associated Press reported that Buck's attorneys had asked both the Supreme Court and Texas Gov. Rick Perry to halt the execution because of a psychologist's testimony that black people were more likely to commit violence.
It isn't Buck's guilt that is being question, but his lawyers argue that the testimony unfairly influenced the jury and therefore, Buck should get a new sentencing hearing, The AP reported.
That the highest court in the nation stepped in to prevent the judicial killing of Buck in such controversial circumstances will now put Perry further under the microscope. That's because Buck's lawyers had approached Perry asking that he use his power to hold off on the execution for about 30 days to give time for all parties to look at his case.
But Perry, a frontrunner for the Republican nomination for the 2012 presidential election, didn't act. Perry has presided over 235 executions since he became governor in 2000.
The Texas Tribune reported that Buck's lawyers sent Perry a letter on Wednesday night seeking the month-long reprieve. State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, former prosecutor Linda Geffin and Buck's stepsister, Phyllis Taylor, who was also wounded, joined in the request.
No other capital case has ever come before your desk more demanding of your immediate intervention, the lawyers wrote, according to the Texas Tribune.
Buck was praying when Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials informed him his life had been spared, a department spokesman, Jason Clark, told the Texas Tribune.
He said, 'God is worthy to be praised. God's mercy triumphs over judgment, and I feel good,' Clark told the Texas Tribune.
Clark said Buck had already had what would have been his last meal of fried chicken, salad, french fries, fried fish, jalapeño peppers and apples before state officials got the decision from the high court.
Buck was reportedly transferred back to death row at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston.