Published: Sat, February 25, 2017
USA | By Angel Wallace

Supreme Court rejects appeal from Virginia death row inmate

Supreme Court rejects appeal from Virginia death row inmate

Roberts Jr. cut through a complicated legal background in the case of Duane Buck and said the introduction of expert testimony that said blacks were more violent than others unfairly tainted a jury's decision about whether he should receive life in prison or death.

Death penalty opponents have pointed to statistics that show black defendants to be far more likely than white defendants to be sentenced to die, and argue that racial bias endures in the American criminal justice system and in death penalty cases in particular.

To say he was unrepentant is an understatement; when arrested, he said Gardner got what she deserved and was "laughing and joking and taunting", Thomas noted.

"In 1995, Buck, who is African-American, was convicted of killing two people and shooting a third". In Texas death penalty trials, one of the "special issues" jurors must consider when deciding punishment is whether the defendant they've convicted would be a future danger. The death sentence hinged on expert witness testimony, called by the defence, wherein a psychologist said Buck posed a future danger to society because he was black.

Buck never disputed that he was responsible for the murders, but now he has a chance to appeal his death sentence.

Buck's lawyers concede his guilt, but have long sought a new sentencing hearing for him - one which does not include Quijano's testimony.

Buck was seeking reversal of a 2015 ruling by the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denying his request for an appeal. But as Roberts wrote, "His case then entered a labyrinth of state and federal collateral review, where it has wandered for the better part of two decades".

"Our law punishes people for what they do, not who they are", Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court.

"No competent defense attorney would introduce evidence that his client is liable to be a future danger because of his race", the court said. "The court has reaffirmed the longstanding principle that criminal punishments - particularly the death penalty - can not be based on immutable characteristics such as race". "A jury could conclude that those changes would minimize the prospect of future dangerousness". According to USA Today, Texas had agreed to reconsider cases with similar prejudicial testimonies in 2000, but chose to exclude Buck's case because his biased testimony came from the defense.

The case is Buck v. Davis.

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