Texecutions: Rick Perry's Willful Blindness to Injustice

There have been 234 executions in Texas under Gov. Rick Perry (database here.) Four more are imminent, scheduled over the next 8 days. One is Duane Buck. At Buck's sentencing, prosecutors argued in part he should be sentenced to death because he is black and therefore a threat to public safety.

Duane Buck is one of four men scheduled to die by lethal injection in Texas, where Perry is governor, over the next eight days – an exceptional rate even in this execution-happy state. At Buck's sentencing hearing, the jury that set his punishment was informed by a psychologist that black people had a higher rate of violent behaviour, a statement used by the prosecution as its key argument against giving him an alternative penalty of life imprisonment.


Buck is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday night. Even the former prosecutor on the case, Linda Geffin, has written a letter (available here) asking Perry not to execute Buck.

It is· regrettable that any race-based considerations were placed before Mr. Buck's jury. No individual should be executed without being afforded a fair trial, untainted by considerations of race.

The surviving family member of the victim is asking for clemency. Buck's lawyers have filed a Petition for Clemency (available here) which is pending.

In 2000, Texas' then Attorney General, conservative John Cornyn, issued a press release about the cases in which the psychologist testified (Cited as "News Release, Office of the Attorney General, Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on capital cases that involved Dr. Walter Quijano's testimony using race as a factor to determine future dangerousness (June 9, 2000)". From the Clemency Petition:

Attorney General John Cornyn, issued a press release in which he identified Mr.Buck’s and five other cases then pending in post-conviction proceedings as cases in which the government had unconstitutionally relied on testimony of psychologist Walter Quijano, that a defendant’s race should be considered in determining future dangerousness and, at least in Mr. Buck’s case, that being black was a factor that increased the likelihood of future dangerousness. The press release looked at a total of eight cases in which Dr. Quijano had been involved, but concluded that two cases did not have circumstances rising to a constitutional violation.

Through mistake or inadvertence, however, and despite the Attorney General’s admission of constitutional error in Mr. Buck’s case, he would be the only one of the six whose racially-tainted death sentence was left intact.

...“Five out of the six cases in which Attorney General John Cornyn conceded error resulted in new sentencing hearings. Mr. Buck has not received the same corrective process. The State of Texas cannot and should not tolerate an execution on the basis of an individual’s race, particularly where this State’s highest legal officer has acknowledged the error, not only in similarly situated cases, but in this case.”

Steven Woods is scheduled for execution tonight. Amnesty International put out this action alert. It says Woods was not the shooter and "his co-defendant pleaded guilty to killing both victims and received a life sentence."

At Woods’ trial, the prosecution argued that while Rhodes had participated in the murders and supplied the car and the guns used in the crime, Woods had planned the crime and committed the shootings. However, in Rhodes’ own sentencing under the plea deal in November 2002, Rhodes stipulated that he, Rhodes, had shot both the victims. Despite clear inconsistencies and a confession from Rhodes, the Texas appeal courts dismissed Steven Woods’ claim of unfairness.

Texas law allows the death penalty for those that did not actually kill the victim. The Guardian (linked above) reports:

Under the so-called "law of parties" in Texas, death penalties can be inflicted even on those who did not pull the trigger. Being present at a murder, knowing that an accomplice intended to kill, is sufficient. "A lot of people with no blood on their own hands get executed in Texas.

Texas may be the only state in which "the law of parties" allows the death penalty for someone convicted of participating in a crime in which a death results, even when another person actually did the killing and that person receives a lesser punishment.

Texas has executed 473 inmates since 1976 when the death penalty was reinstated -- four times more than any other state. (Fact sheet here.) Here's Rick Perry's record in a nutshell. Here are the faces of a few.

Rick Perry says "Americans understand justice." What he's missing is the counterpart -- they don't approve of injustice.

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  • Display: Sort:
    What Does 'Future Dangerousness'... (none / 0) (#1)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 01:56:20 PM EST
    ... have to do with anything in a capital case ?

    Presumably, the defendant is never going to see freedom, arguing he would more dangerous in prison seems pretty ridiculous as to a factor in murdering him.

    Dr. Walter Quijano is one of these doctors that probably makes a living off testifying pure non-sense.  I would like to know who brought this clown into the mix and what his qualifications are for making such a bold claim.

    Sucks being from a state that if half the population had their way, everyone from shoplifters on up would be put to death w/o a trial.  For real.

    Perry has proven unbreakable in regards to the death sentence, retarded, underage, no problem, just adjust the dose and 'getter done'.  The guy that went on killing spree was murdered by the state even after one of the surviving victims went on a crusade to save his life.  Perry isn't letting anyone off the murderous hook.

    "Future dangerousness" is one (none / 0) (#12)
    by Peter G on Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 07:41:47 PM EST
    of the notorious "three questions" that Texas statutory law requires every jury to consider in deciding whether to impose a death sentence in a first degree murder case.  Are you trying to counter that with logic?  Silly boy ....

    Has SCOTUS reviewed the statute? (none / 0) (#13)
    by oculus on Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 07:42:48 PM EST
    many times (none / 0) (#15)
    by Peter G on Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 08:38:03 PM EST

    Death penalty for (none / 0) (#2)
    by MKS on Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 02:30:16 PM EST
    felony murder???

    And expressly because members of his race are more prone to violence?????

    But given the hootin' and hollerin' at recent GOP debates, I suppose no one should be surprised.

    Uh, yeah (none / 0) (#8)
    by jbindc on Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 04:08:56 PM EST
    The death penalty for felony murder may NOT be imposed on a defendant that did not kill, attempt to kill, or intend that a killing take place.  Enmund v. Florida, 458 U.S. 782 (1982)

    It CAN, however, be imposed if the defendant was a "major participant" in the underlying felony and acted with reckless indifference to human life. Tison v. Arizona, 481 U.S. 137 (1987), which says:

    Although petitioners neither intended to kill the victims nor inflicted the fatal wounds, the record might support a finding that they had the culpable mental state of reckless indifference to human life. The Eighth Amendment does not prohibit the death penalty as [481 U.S. 137, 138] disproportionate in the case of a defendant whose participation in a felony that results in murder is major and whose mental state is one of reckless indifference. A survey of state felony-murder laws and judicial decisions after Enmund indicates a societal consensus that that combination of factors may justify the death penalty even without a specific "intent to kill." Reckless disregard for human life also represents a highly culpable mental state that may support a capital sentencing judgment in combination with major participation in the felony resulting in death.

    Sure, the case law may support it (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by MKS on Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 05:25:17 PM EST
    It is still horid.....

    Should (none / 0) (#3)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 02:33:31 PM EST
    surprise no one since a lot of conservatives believe that we should be killing off Muslims because of their religious beliefs.

    I went to high school at this place (none / 0) (#4)
    by Dadler on Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 02:53:03 PM EST
    IOW (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Dadler on Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 02:53:36 PM EST
    The fundamentalists are still fundamentally nuts.

    Well (none / 0) (#17)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 06:57:04 AM EST
    I grew up in the 40's and 50's in the rural south and my teachers didn't pass out all that type of stuff.

    Must have been a west coast thing.


    Right ... because one person ... (none / 0) (#21)
    by Yman on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 08:52:04 AM EST
    ... didn't experience it must mean there was no religious bigotry in the South and it must have been a "West Coast thing".



    a west coast thing.. (none / 0) (#29)
    by jondee on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 01:43:37 PM EST
    as in, the entire west coast of the Tennessee River Valley..

    please stay on topic (none / 0) (#14)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 07:50:28 PM EST
    of Rick Perry and the death penalty, thanks.

    any other state, Texas should be under a microscope with any death penalty case.

    It shouldn't really come as a surprise since Perry replaced 3 members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission.

    This "law of parties" is nuts. How can someone be sentenced to death when the admitted shooter gets life? How can the courts sign off on this?

    There guys do sometimes get out (none / 0) (#7)
    by Mitch Guthman on Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 03:29:46 PM EST
    I personally think that (if there is going to be a death penalty at all) future dangerousness is a reasonable thing for penalty phase juries to consider because nobody can ever be really sure that these people aren't getting out.  There was a period in the late 1980's and early 1990's after the death penalty was first abolished by the USSC  when I personally saw a number of criminals who'd previously received the death penalty but managed to find their way back into the criminal justice system after somehow getting released.

    For example, I handled a guy who received the death penalty, then had it commuted to life after the first death penalty ban and who then basically bought himself a pardon or a parole (I forget which) during the Edwin Edwards administration. He went back into the street level drug business and eventually got into an inconclusive gunfight with the cops during a raid.

    A couple of years later, I got stuck with a guy who'd been involved in a pretty violent takeover robbery of a bar which ended in a couple of totally gratuitous murders. His death sentence got changed to life and then he got a new trial because there weren't any women on his jury. He been in Angola for about 19 years so I couldn't find any of the eyewitnesses or the physical evidence so I had to turn him loose.       I know this is mainly a defense site so that might be considered a good result but it does suggest that at least some of these guys are going to get out at some point not by virtue of being factually innocent but rather by who I see as quirks of the legal system.

    Also, just as an aside:  What is wrong with Texas?  The irresponsible way that they've applied the death penalty has caused a lot of current former and even current prosecutors to rethink capital punishment. It isn't just the Perry and Bush administrations. It seems to be some sort of a perverse bloodlust that's just baked into their criminal justice system. They don't seem to actually care about questions of guilt or innocence---it seems like Texans just like to kill people. If they happen to kill a guilty person that's like a bonus for them but determining guilt of innocence no longer seems to be the point of trials there. Texans just seem angry and bloodthirsty.  

    How many Comanche Reservations (none / 0) (#10)
    by MKS on Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 05:40:54 PM EST
    are there in Texas?

    Zero....unless I've missed something.

    How many Indian Reservations in total?  One.  Near El Paso.  The tiny Tigua (offshoot of the Pueblos) Indian reservation--and recently created.

    The only good Injun' is a dead Injun'.....


    Not Sure What that Has to do With Mitch's Comments (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by ScottW714 on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 09:05:46 AM EST
    There aren't reservations because they were, for the most part created before Texas was Texas or property of the US.

    But there are a lot of tribes here.


    Getting way off topic (none / 0) (#24)
    by Rojas on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 09:17:33 AM EST
    but there was at least one reservation. They were ran out of the state. On some kind of trumped up charges IIRC.

    How many Comanche? (none / 0) (#26)
    by MKS on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 11:51:14 AM EST
    Early Texas did not like Native Americans......

    The Indian Appropriations Act (none / 0) (#27)
    by MKS on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 12:00:41 PM EST
    which created the first Reservation in Oklahoma, passed in 1851.

    Texas was not going to allow its land to be given away......


    it needed to be conserved (none / 0) (#28)
    by jondee on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 01:30:34 PM EST
    for the noble pursuit of developing slave plantations and for slave trading.

    And the dang Meskins were agin' it, so they had to be shoved out.


    Shorthand (none / 0) (#34)
    by Rojas on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 12:35:08 AM EST
    On February 6, 1854, the State of Texas allocated two parcels of land for two Indian reservations in Young and Throckmorton Counties., to be overseen by the United States Indian agent for Texas.

    The 40,000-acre Brazos Reserve, just below present-day Graham, was home to Caddo, Waco, Anadarko, and Tonkawa tribes. On the Clear Fork of the Brazos in Throckmorton County, Penateka Comanches lived on the 18,576-acre Comanche Reserve. The federal Indian agent in charge of both reservations was Major Robert Simpson Neighbors.

    In August 1859, protected by an army escort under Major George Thomas, Neighbors personally led his charges to safety across the Red River into Indian Territory. Reflecting upon the numerous violent and lawless events over the previous nine months, he said, `"I have this day crossed all the Indians out of the heathen land of `Texas' and am now `out of the land of the philistines."'

    "recently created" (none / 0) (#18)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 06:58:22 AM EST
    Sounds like someone wants to start a casino.

    One of Perry's... (none / 0) (#23)
    by ScottW714 on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 09:13:33 AM EST
    ... flaws some would say.  No casinos in Texas.  

    I don't really care, if suckers wanna lay out their funds, maybe Texas should get a piece of the action.  The 90 min drive to Louisiana from Houston doesn't deter the gamblers.

    And if you play poker, and if I remember right you do Jim, its just about legal.  Just call yourself a private club and you can host poker tables and take in a percentage of all pots.  I play occasionally and I know where a bunch of the private clubs are.  I would imagine the hard core players have endless places to hone their skills.


    Becoming a private club (none / 0) (#32)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 09:55:09 PM EST
    is a thought, but there aren't "endless places" to play legal games.

    There is no doubt that the case of (none / 0) (#16)
    by Rojas on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 04:33:11 AM EST
    Kenneth Allen McDuff did allot to shape attitudes about the DP here.

    He was sentenced to death for killing three kids in 66. Removed from death row in 72 as a result of the Furman decision by the USSC.

    McDuff bought his way to freedom in 88 during a particularly dysfunctional period in the parole system. This was during a period of Federal oversight and mandated prison population controls that had people streaming through the system. Of course the war on drugs was becoming a hot war and the whole country was on a roll with prison populations doubling every five years.


    Does Gov./primary candidate Perry (none / 0) (#11)
    by oculus on Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 05:53:20 PM EST
    have any influence on the timing of these pending executions?

    No more or less than (none / 0) (#19)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 06:59:34 AM EST
    candidate Clinton had.

    Texas and Arkansas ... (none / 0) (#20)
    by Yman on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 07:55:13 AM EST
    ... have the same death penalty laws?

    The things you learn ...


    That wasn't the question (none / 0) (#31)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 09:52:51 PM EST
    Really? Guess you should be ... (none / 0) (#33)
    by Yman on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 09:56:55 PM EST
    ... more direct when you make an accusation.

    Is this an "air quote"? (none / 0) (#25)
    by oculus on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 11:15:15 AM EST
    h/t andgarden.  

    "future dangerousness" ad criterion (none / 0) (#30)
    by diogenes on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 09:40:34 PM EST
    Even life without parole inmates can potentially murder or maim fellow inmates and prison guards.