Duane Buck’s case led to the death penalty after a jury convicted him of shooting two people while under the influence of drugs. Buck gained international attention from social justice advocates due to the reasoning of the psychologist who helped convince jurors to give him the death penalty. The psychologist argued that Buck was more likely to commit crimes in the future because he is black.
The prosecution relied on the racially-controversial testimony in securing Buck’s conviction, and his attorneys, along with a long list of advocates from Texas and beyond, are asking for a new hearing. Over 100 prominent citizens from the state of Texas, along with a former Texas governor, are saying that Buck should get a new and fairer sentence.
You can read a press release here. Also, the American Bar Association President Laurel Bellows released a statement that supports a new hearing for Buck.
Making matters worse, research by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund has determined that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office has a pattern of racial discrimination when it comes to African Americans. More than half of all Texas prisoners on death row are from Harris County. Additionally, one of the county’s DA’s resigned after sending racist emails.
A study showed that, between 1992 and 1999, the Harris County DA’s office was three times more likely to pursue the death penalty when the defendant was an African American.
The case is part of a broad pattern of discrimination occurring in courtrooms across the country. The campaign to end mass incarceration, sponsored by Dr. Boyce Watkins and Russell Simmons, often cites data from the Sentencing Project, which shows that African American males receive prison sentences that are 20% longer than those of white men, even when they are convicted of the same crimes.
Buck’s case is just the latest out of Texas to receive national media attention. Advocates are also fighting for Sharanda Jones, a non-violent, first-time offender who was given life in prison with no chance for parole on sketchy evidence that she was part of a drug distribution conspiracy.