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Supreme Court Considers Appeal For Man Who Was Sentenced To Death Because He’s Black

Supreme Court Considers Appeal For Man Who Was Sentenced To Death Because He's Black

All Texas death-row prisoner Duane Buck wants is a piece of paper from a judge. If the Supreme Court agrees that he deserves it, the paper will let him show in court that he was sentenced to death because he is black.

The high court on Wednesday considered Buck’s case, a capital appeal that is striking for how technical it is, but also for how his lawyer failed miserably at avoiding a death sentence that one justice once said was “marred by racial overtones.”

The justices faced a choice on whether to devote the one-hour hearing to thetechnicalities surrounding the case or the deeper constitutional issue of ineffective assistance of counsel. And in the end, it seems as if they decided both were worth exploring to some extent.

Chief Justice John Roberts recognized Buck’s case was “unique” because, deep down, it’s really about what rules federal courts should follow when granting what is known as a certificate of appealability ― the piece of paper Buck seeks that will let him prove at a later stage whether his constitutional rights were violated.

And because the Supreme Court sets the rules for lower courts, Roberts appeared concerned that a sweeping ruling for Buck ― one that made much of the racial dynamics of his sentencing ― would open the floodgates to a slew of new cases and appeals from inmates such as Buck.

“This would be an odd platform to issue general rules,” Roberts remarked, and then suggested that maybe the court’s ruling should be limited to the piece-of-paper question: “Should our decision be just that?”

For better or for worse, Buck v. Davis, as the case is known, has everything and nothing to do with race. Nearly two decades ago, Buck was convicted for murdering his ex-girlfriend and another man in front of the woman’s own children ― and Texas, as it often does, sought the death penalty for him.

“The bitch deserved what she got,” Buck said at the crime scene, according to a police officer’s courtroom testimony.

Under Texas law, jurors in capital cases are required to determine the “future dangerousness” of a defendant before they can recommend a death sentence. That’s usually a burden prosecutors have to carry. But in Buck’s case, his own defense attorney presented an expert report that noted that being black was a “statistical factor” that meant he might pose a future danger to society.

 

See More-  Source:  Huffington Post

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