Like the Precogs in Phillip K. Dick’s The Minority Report, Texas jurors are asked to peer into the future and determine if capital defendants are likely to commit future crimes. “Future dangerousness” is a factor Texas juries must consider before issuing a death sentence. To accomplish this prognostication, these juries often rely on expert – some would say “expert” – psychological testimony.
Sometimes those “experts” are racist. Like Dr. Walter Quijano, who testified in several cases that defendants were “future dangers” because of their race. In the case of Duane Buck, he had the following exchange:
Prosecutor: “You have determined that the sex factor, that a male is more violent than a female because that’s just the way it is, and that the race factor, black, increases the future dangerousness for various complicated reasons. Is that correct?”
Dr. Quijano: “Yes.”
The jury that heard this sentenced Buck to die.
Buck is now seeking a new sentencing hearing free of racial bias. But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has refused to consider the merits of his claims. Duane Buck is now in real – not speculative – danger of execution, and the racist testimony that may have put him on death row has been allowed to stand.
Support for Duane Buck, outside of the merciless Texas courts, has come from civil rights leaders, faith leaders, and former Texas Governor Mark White. Even Phyllis Taylor, the surviving victim from Duane Buck’s attack, has said:
“I have forgiven Duane and could not bear to see him executed. I pray that his life be spared.”
All agree that Buck deserves a new sentencing hearing, where race is not a factor in determining whether he lives or dies. And despite the Texas high court’s refusal to hear his claims, all is not lost. As a petition sponsored by Linda Geffin, who participated in the prosecution of Duane Buck, makes clear, the District Attorney’s office in Harris County, where Buck was convicted, can – and must – allow a new, fair sentencing hearing for Duane Buck.