Former Prosecutors Call on Texas Court to Re-sentence Death Penalty Case

Source: Former Prosecutors Call on Texas Court to Re-sentence Death Penalty Case

by The Constitution Project
Former Prosecutors Call on Texas to Resentence Death Row Prisoner to Life
Court Decries Deadly “Toxin” of Racial Prejudice in Texas Death Penalty Case

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-2 decision authored by Chief Justice Roberts, ruled in favor of Texas death row inmate Duane Buck, who had been sentenced to death after an expert, Dr. Walter Quijano, told a jury he was more dangerous because he is black. The Court held that Buck’s trial lawyers’ incompetence in offering the prejudiced testimony, combined with the jury’s central duty to determine if Mr. Buck was a future danger, created a “perfect storm.” It went on to explain that the impact of such evidence “cannot be measured simply by how much air time it received at trial or how many pages it occupies in the record. Some toxins can be deadly in small doses.”

Following the ruling, an array of former prosecutors called on the State of Texas to end this litigation in the most just way possible: through resentencing Mr. Buck to life in prison. In a statement, Linda Geffin, who prosecuted Mr. Buck at trial; Mark Earley, former Attorney General of Virginia; Michael Cody, former Attorney General of Tennessee; and Scott Harshbarger, former Attorney General of Massachusetts, said, “Each day, Mr. Buck’s actions confirm the fallacy of Dr. Quijano’s testimony: Buck has demonstrated in his nearly two decades on death row that he is no danger to the community.”  The prosecutors further explain: 
 
“As we have previously stated and as the Court has now held, it does not matter if the prosecution or defense counsel ‘broached the subject’ and injected race as a factor to be considered in sentencing a man to death. Race poisoned the outcome in this case and the most appropriate and fair course for the State to take at this juncture is to sentence Mr. Buck to life in prison.”
In advance of oral argument, Geffin, Earley, Cody and Harshbarger joined a group of more than 20 former federal and state prosecutors in a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Court to grant Mr.  Buck relief.  “Prosecutors must seek justice, not just convictions, and that duty sometimes requires foregoing or overturning a conviction in order to protect a defendant’s constitutional rights. Among the most important of those rights is the constitutional assurance that no defendant’s sentence will be determined based upon race,” the prosecutors’ brief asserted. The brief was organized by The Constitution Project, a nonpartisan legal watchdog and advocacy group.
 

The case is Buck v. Davis, No. 15-8049, available at https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/15-8049_f2ah.pdf

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About The Constitution Project ®

Created out of the belief that we must cast aside the labels that divide us in order to keep our democracy strong, The Constitution Project brings together policy experts and legal practitioners from across the political spectrum to foster consensus-based solutions to the most difficult constitutional challenges of our time through scholarship, advocacy, policy reform and public education initiatives. Established in 1997, TCP is based in Washington, D.C.

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