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Supreme Court Rejects Racial Stereotyping in Death Penalty Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court has sent out one of the strongest messages to date about racial stereotyping in the criminal justice system, reopening the case of a black man who was sentenced to death in Texas.

The nation’s highest court considered the case of Duane Buck in February, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Buck was convicted of capital murder after the jury in his case was told African Americans are more likely than whites to commit crimes. The testimony came from a defense expert. It was relevant because the likelihood of a defendant to re-offend is a factor the jury considers in a capital murder case.

Racial stereotyping banned by Supreme Court

Supreme Court considered racial stereotyping

At the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said racial stereotyping has no place in a sentencing hearing. He said:

“Our laws punish people for what they do, not for who they are.”

The Supreme Court decided to re-open Buck’s cases in a 6-2 decision. The justices criticized the Texas authorities for declining to give a new sentencing hearing to Buck.

Buck is from Houston. He was convicted of shooting and killing his former girlfriend and seriously injuring her new boyfriend more than 20 years ago.

The comments of a defense expert made the case controversial. Although Buck was found guilty of murder, as the jury deliberated on his fate, members heard from a defense expert who detailed statistics showing blacks are more likely to commit subsequent crimes than whites.

The jury sentenced Buck to death after hearing the expert testimony.

Supreme Court Takes Stance Against Racial Stereotyping

In the case of Buck vs. Davis, the nation’s high court said it was a mistake for the jury to consider the expert’s purported statistics. Roberts said when a jury is considering a question of life or death, racial prejudice has no place.

The Supreme Court sent Buck’s case back to a court in Texas to reconsider the death sentence.

While Texas state attorneys set aside the death penalties of six other black defendants after the juries heard evidence containing racial stereotypes, they refused to reopen Buck’s case, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Justice Clarence Thomas gave dissenting opinions. Thomas argued Buck was properly sentenced to death for a brutal murder.

If you are charged with murder, you are more likely to face the death penalty in Texas than in any other state. At Peek & Toland , we offer a vigorous defense to murder in Texas. Please call us at (512) 474-4445.

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