High Court Blocks Houston Killer’s Execution

Allan Turner, Houston Chronicle, September 15, 2011

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday issued a stay of execution for Houston killer Duane Buck in a case that drew arguments that his punishment might have been tainted by racial testimony.

The high court stayed his execution pending a decision on whether to review his case.

The decision came about 7:30 p.m. approximately 90 minutes after Buck was to have been executed. He was waiting in a holding cell next to the state’s death chamber.

{snip}

In a Thursday morning filing to the high court, Texas Defender Service lawyers argued Buck’s death sentence violated equal protection, due process and 8th Amendment guarantees under the Constitution.

Buck was sentenced to die for the July 1995 shooting deaths of his former girlfriend, Debra Gardner, and her friend, Kenneth Butler. Buck also shot his sister, Phyllis Taylor, in the chest at point-blank range, but the woman recovered and later became an advocate for saving his life.

The legal fight for Buck’s life centered on a 2000 assertion by then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn that Buck’s case was among six capital trials that might have been tainted by racial testimony from psychologist Walter Quijano.

The other five killers all received new federal court-ordered punishment hearings in which they again were sentenced to death. But Buck, whose case still was at the state level at the time of Cornyn’s pronouncement, never had his sentencing reconsidered.

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Quijano’s problematic testimony came after he had outlined various factors, including race, that could contribute to “future dangerousness” of inmates in prison. An expert witness of the defense, Quijano ultimately opined that Buck would not pose such a risk if incarcerated.

The issue of future dangerousness is a key factor jurors must consider before issuing a death sentence.

On cross-examination, prosecutors asked the psychologist if he thought being black could, for “complicated reasons,” be a risk factor for future violence. He answered yes.

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  • madison grant

    So this thug escapes the death penalty because of a politically incorrect (though accurate) comment by a defense witness?

    Maybe more defense lawyers should hire this Latino shrink in hopes he’ll make similar remarks.

  • sbuffalonative

    “An expert witness of the defense, Quijano ultimately opined that Buck would not pose such a risk if incarcerated.”

    Note that it was a DEFENSE witness who brought up the aspect of race.

    Will this become the ultimate get out of jail free pass? Having your own defense team broach the topic of race and if found guilty, have your own defense scream racism?

  • Dave

    This article is far more even-handed than previous articles I’ve read, which omit the fact that Quijano was a defense witness and that his conclusions regarding race and propensity for future violence were part of a report introduced into evidence by defense counsel. The prosecution made a poor tactical decision in taking the bait and cross-examining Quijano on that part of his analysis, but they did not violate Buck’s due process or equal protection rights in doing so. It should also be noted that defense counsel declined to object when Quijano was cross-examined concerning his testimony regarding race and future dangerousness. Perhaps the defense knew what they were doing in remaining silent.

  • Anonymous

    Welcome to the New World Order, where you can’t speak the TRUTH about race in America. Regardless of the crime race/stats, he is guilty of murder and should fry!!