Following his 1995 arrest, Texas inmate Duane Buck has been appealing his death sentence for the past 14 years. The man who believes that the sentence was given based on racial prejudice after a psychologist testified that Buck would be more likely to kill again because he was black, will have his appeal considered by the Supreme court Wednesday, NBC News reported.
Buck was charged with murder after killing two people, ex-girlfriend Debra Gardner and her friend Kenneth Butler. Following their break up, Buck entered the woman’s home with a shotgun and rifle where he wounded his stepsister, killed Butler and followed Gardner outside murdering her in front of her children.
In Texas, the law requires juries to assess the “future dangerousness” of a defendant in order to issue the death penalty, the Los Angeles Times reported. During Buck’s murder trial, his attorney questioned former prison psychiatrist Walter Quijano who determined that although it is not likely for Buck to be violent in the future because he is black there is an “increased probability” that he will be violent in the future.
"It’s a sad commentary that minorities, Hispanics and black people, are overrepresented in the criminal justice system,” Quijano testified.
A prosecutor then asked: “The race factor, black, increases the future dangerousness for various complicated reasons — is that correct?”
Quijano answered, “Yes.”
Reflecting on the psychiatrist’s assessment, Kathryn Kase of the Texas Defender Service disagreed. "This stereotype, that black men are more dangerous, is animating our entire public discussion these days. It's now up to this court to say, 'That's enough,'" she said.
Quijano’s words convinced the jury that Buck should be sentenced to death even though he was never convicted of a violent crime prior to the murder. During a prison interview, Buck later reflected on the physiatrist’s statement. "Out of all the things, that stood out because it's like you think they're saying because you black, you need to die," he said.
"I felt that was strange because my lawyer didn't say nothing, nobody else, you know, the prosecutor or the judge. It's like it was an everyday thing in the courts," Buck added.
A decision on Buck’s death sentence is expected to be issued before late June.