The High Court Gets It Right: Buck v. Stephens


As I discussed in a previous blog the United States Supreme Court was reviewing the case of Duane Buck, an inmate on Texas death row.  The issue was whether Buck should receive a new sentencing hearing because the jurors heard testimony from a (defense!) expert witness that the defendant was more likely to commit violent crimes and pose a future danger because he is black.  I mentioned in the earlier post that in my humble opinion, this was an unconscionable piece of testimony from the defense expert.  Someone’s race should never be part of the equation when a jury determines if a defendant should live or die.

Well, my humble opinion or not, the Supreme Court agreed.  They recently ruled 6-2 in Duane Buck’s favor and tossed out the death penalty sentence previously rendered.  Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion and in it, likened the race-based testimony of the expert to a “toxin”, which can still be “deadly in small doses”.  It is heartening to know that at least in this case, justice was done.

Buck’s conviction still stands, but he will have the chance to have another punishment hearing in front of a new jury.  As I stated before, if he deserves death, so be it, but the let jury who makes that choice be one who judges him for what he did, and not just for who he was born as.


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