The U.S. Supreme Court Thursday stayed the execution of Duane Buck, who was convicted in a 1995 double murder, after his attorney argued that racial bias plagued the trial.
Buck, who is a black, was sentenced to death for the murder of his ex-girlfriend and a man in her apartment. At the time of sentencing, a psychologist who was called to testify said that blacks were more likely to be repeat offenders.
His execution had been scheduled to take place on Thursday after 6 p.m. CDT (2300 GMT) at the prison in Huntsville, Texas. Although the Supreme Court did not specified the span of the stay, Buck's attorney Kate Black asked Gov. Rick Perry for 30 days.
A 30-day reprieve is necessary to allow state officials time to work together and arrive at a solution ensuring that Mr. Buck's sentence is determined through a process untainted by considerations of his race, she said.
We are relieved that the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the obvious injustice of allowing a defendant's race to factor into sentencing decisions and granted a stay of execution to Duane Buck. No one should be put to death based on the color of his or her skin, AFP quoted Black as saying.
Perry, a Republican presidential candidate and staunch supporter of death penalty, has presided over 235 executions so far during his 11 years in office, the highest number of executions under any governor.
If you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you're involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is, you will be executed, Perry said during a debate in California last week.
In 2000, Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, now a U.S. senator, recommended that six cases, including Buck's, be reviewed for racially biased testimony. In five cases, the defendants were again sentenced to death because the state had argued that the racial reference was only a small part of the case.