The Influence of Race on the Death Penalty


By: Rachel Nguyen

On September 15, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court halted the execution of Duane Buck.  Buck was convicted to die by lethal injection for a double murder in Texas, sixteen years ago.  In the appeal, Buck’s lawyer argued that the sentence was unfair because of racial questions and statements asked at Buck’s trial.  The concern centered on a psychologist’s testimony that black people were more likely to commit violence.  Buck was given a one -time 30 day reprieve, in order for his appeal to be reviewed.  Buck’s guilt is not in question; what is in question is whether or not he deserves a new sentencing hearing because the racial statements unfairly influenced the jury.

The article linked below notes that Buck’s case is one of six convictions in Texas, reviewed in 2009 by the then top attorney who concluded that they needed to be reopened because of racially charged statements made during the sentencing process.  For example, in one case a psychologist stated that black criminals were more likely to pose a future danger to the public.

After reading the ‘comments’ posted about this article I am less impressed with the American people.  We pride ourselves on our laws and justice.  However, very few of the masses seem to understand what criminal defense is about.  It is not about an eye for an eye, someone getting what they deserved, or getting rid of the ‘scum’ of society.  Even people who commit crimes have basic liberties and basic rights; which should never be taken away.  That being said, while Buck’s guilt is not on trial, it does not follow that he should die by legal injection.  Buck deserves a just sentence, where his race is not at issue.

For a link to the article this blog is discussing, please click here.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.

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