Race-Tainted Death Sentence: Appeal Denied

Duane Buck was sentenced to die after jurors were told that "the race factor" made him dangerous. The Supreme Court has denied his appeal.

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The Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal from a Texas death row inmate who was sentenced to death after a psychiatrist told jurors that his race made him more likely to pose a "future danger" to the public, the Huffington Post reports.

On Monday the justices turned away the appeal of Duane Buck, who wanted them to consider whether race played an improper role in his sentencing. Buck, who is black, was sentenced to death for the fatal shootings of his ex-girlfriend and a man in her apartment in July 1995.

His attorneys asked for a new sentencing hearing because his death sentence was handed down after jurors were told that his race made him more likely to commit future crimes. This was significant because future dangerousness is a key factor in deciding whether the death penalty is assigned.

At the sentencing, the defense called psychologist Walter Quijano to testify that Buck would not be dangerous in the future, in part because he had no history of violence. But a prosecutor cited "the race factor" and asked whether Buck's being black "increases the future dangerousness."

The psychologist's response: "Yes." Prosecutors cited that testimony in their closing argument, and the jurors who heard it decided to sentence Buck to death.

So the message from the nation's highest court today is that an execution that's based on "the race factor" is just fine. In the wake of the Troy Davis case, this development will be widely understood as another infuriating example of the criminal-justice system operating in a way that -- especially for black defendants -- can be anything but just.

Read more at ABC News and the Huffington Post.

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