Duane Buck, sentenced to die in the state governed by Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, was granted a reprieve on his execution day after the U.S. Supreme Court intervened on Thursday. The high court wants time to review his lawyers' contention that his death sentence for a double murder conviction in Texas was swayed by racist testimony during his trial.
Duane Buck, 48, was spared from lethal injection when the justices, without extensive comment, said they would review an appeal in his case. Two appeals, both related to a psychologist's testimony that black people were more likely to commit violence, were before the court. One was granted; the other was denied.
"Praise the Lord!" Buck told Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark. "God is worthy to be praised. God's mercy triumphs over judgment. I feel good." …
The reprieve came nearly two hours into a six-hour window when Buck could have been taken to the death chamber. Texas officials, however, refused to move forward with the punishment while legal issues were pending.
Buck's guilt in the 1995 slaying of his ex-girlfriend and a man in her apartment is not in question. What is in question is whether testimony that his race is a factor in his likelihood to be a repeat offender swayed the decision toward death, instead of the type of sentence more often accorded "crimes of passion" in Texas: life in prison or a lengthy sentence.
A person should be sentenced according to his own crimes and behavior, not according to racial profiling. Whether or not you believe a murderer should pay the ultimate price, all should agree that the ultimate price shouldn't be meted out according to skin color.
Buck's lawyers also made an appeal to Perry, but the governor was out of state, and the court's decision meant that he did not have to act on the request anyway. Not that it would likely have mattered. Perry is a supporter of the death penalty and has presided over 235 executions, more than any other governor in U.S. history.
In other news: Ruth Simmons to Retire as Brown President.
Sheryl Huggins Salomon is senior editor-at-large of The Root and a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based editorial consultant. Follow her on Twitter.