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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