Texas Death Penalty Two-Step

Texas FlagOne step forward, one step back.  Usually, the U.S. Supreme Court has been the one to scrutinize the shenanigans of Texas capital punishment, and to step in when local courts go too far.  But yesterday was opposite day.  It was the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that did the right thing in staying an execution, and the U.S. Supreme Court that refused to intervene despite an obvious and disturbing injustice.

In the Supreme Court case, Buck v. Thaler, Duane Buck was sentenced to die by a jury that heard an “expert” – Dr. Walter Quijano – testify that African Americans are more inclined to commit crimes and be a danger to others.  (Buck is African American and you have to be considered a “future danger” to get a death sentence in Texas.)

Buck is seeking a new sentencing hearing because this testimony is … you know …  racist.  But the Supreme Court didn’t think it was important and chose not to intervene.  The Justices who defended this decision agreed that the testimony in question was indeed “bizarre and objectionable”. But that didn’t matter, because it was the defense who called Dr. Quijano to the stand.  If the prosecution had introduced this testimony it “would provide a basis for reversal”, wrote Justices Alito, Scalia, and Breyer.

The Court’s two newest members, Sotomayor and Kagan, disagreed, writing that Buck’s death sentence was “marred by racial overtones” that “our criminal justice system should not tolerate”.  They also pointed to other cases where Dr. Quijano (who has provided such race-based testimony many times) was called by the defense but relief was nonetheless granted.

But, for the majority of our Supreme Court, racist testimony in a death penalty case is apparently okay as long as the defense makes the mistake of introducing it.

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6 thoughts on “Texas Death Penalty Two-Step

  1. I don't believe for a second that his testimony concerning whether an African-American is or is not more likely to commit a violent crime was relevant or even belonged in his testimony. HOWEVER – the justices were correct. He was a defense witness and his comment had zero to no impact on either the verdict or the sentence.

    Also – if the Doctor's testimony is backed up by statistics – is it racist? Just thought I'd ask the question and hopefully ignite a debate!

    Oh – and last but not least – regardless of the color of the man's skin – Duane Buck was guilty as the day is long and has had countless defenses and appeals.

  2. I don’t believe for a second that his testimony concerning whether an African-American is or is not more likely to commit a violent crime was relevant or even belonged in his testimony. HOWEVER – the justices were correct. He was a defense witness and his comment had zero to no impact on either the verdict or the sentence.

    Also – if the Doctor’s testimony is backed up by statistics – is it racist? Just thought I’d ask the question and hopefully ignite a debate!

    Oh – and last but not least – regardless of the color of the man’s skin – Duane Buck was guilty as the day is long and has had countless defenses and appeals.

  3. The statistic itself is not racist, but applying it against someone in such a way to deny them their life most certainly is. He is guilty but following Texas law, there must be good reason to believe that person would be a danger to society should they be released. Excluding the racist testimony, there was none. For that, I say throw him back into his jail cell & call it a day.

  4. The statistic itself is not racist, but applying it against someone in such a way to deny them their life most certainly is. He is guilty but following Texas law, there must be good reason to believe that person would be a danger to society should they be released. Excluding the racist testimony, there was none. For that, I say throw him back into his jail cell & call it a day.

  5. Devil's Advocate says the point is Quijano's a DEFENSE witness, & his comment had no impact on verdict or sentence.

    To the contrary, the point is it was the STATE PROSECUTION that raised the RACE FACTOR with Quijano as a VALID CONCERN & ARGUMENT.

    Prosecutor : "You have determined that the … race factor, black, INCREASES the future dangerousness for various complicated reasons ; is that correct ?"

    Quijano answers yes.

    The point is not that he's a defense witness, but that Prosecution ARGUED to the jury in summation that QUIJANO "TOLD YOU that there was a PROBABILITY that [ Buck ] would commit future acts of violence."

    Quijano became the FOUNDATION for the Prosecution's call for death. The jury decided ACCORDINGLY.

    The point is, moreover, Buck's isn't an isolated case.

    There's a CONTINUOUS trend of racism here.

    In Victor Saldano's case, the State later admitted "the use of race… seriously undermined the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of the judicial process." State confessed "the infusion of race as a factor for the jury to weigh in making its determination violated [ Saldano's ] constitutional right to be sentenced without regard to the color of his skin."

    Soon after, Texas' attorney general identified 6 cases like Saldano's.

    Of all these cases that were granted federal habeas review, ONLY in Buck's case did the State assert a procedural bar.

    WHY ?? Why the break with precedent ??

    The 5 th Circuit Appeals Court says, "We are provided with NO EXPLANATION for why the State declined to act consistently with its Attorney General's public announcement with respect to petitioner Buck."

    Only if it happened to your people so consistently would you scream "Racism".

    The rest of the world knows what to call it from its firsthand experience of Texas & American "justice".

  6. Devil’s Advocate says the point is Quijano’s a DEFENSE witness, & his comment had no impact on verdict or sentence.

    To the contrary, the point is it was the STATE PROSECUTION that raised the RACE FACTOR with Quijano as a VALID CONCERN & ARGUMENT.

    Prosecutor : “You have determined that the … race factor, black, INCREASES the future dangerousness for various complicated reasons ; is that correct ?”

    Quijano answers yes.

    The point is not that he’s a defense witness, but that Prosecution ARGUED to the jury in summation that QUIJANO “TOLD YOU that there was a PROBABILITY that [ Buck ] would commit future acts of violence.”

    Quijano became the FOUNDATION for the Prosecution’s call for death. The jury decided ACCORDINGLY.

    The point is, moreover, Buck’s isn’t an isolated case.

    There’s a CONTINUOUS trend of racism here.

    In Victor Saldano’s case, the State later admitted “the use of race… seriously undermined the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of the judicial process.” State confessed “the infusion of race as a factor for the jury to weigh in making its determination violated [ Saldano's ] constitutional right to be sentenced without regard to the color of his skin.”

    Soon after, Texas’ attorney general identified 6 cases like Saldano’s.

    Of all these cases that were granted federal habeas review, ONLY in Buck’s case did the State assert a procedural bar.

    WHY ?? Why the break with precedent ??

    The 5 th Circuit Appeals Court says, “We are provided with NO EXPLANATION for why the State declined to act consistently with its Attorney General’s public announcement with respect to petitioner Buck.”

    Only if it happened to your people so consistently would you scream “Racism”.

    The rest of the world knows what to call it from its firsthand experience of Texas & American “justice”.