Supreme Court Stays Texecution of Duane Buck

Texas was set to execute Duane Buck last night. Texas held off until the last appeals had been decided.

Today, the Supreme Court has intervened, and granted a stay.

The issue:

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.

The victim's surviving relative asked for clemency.

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    Something is amiss. (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by lentinel on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 03:55:44 AM EST
    Duane Buck's guilt is not in question.
    But he has been granted a stay due to outrageous racist testimony during the sentencing hearing.

    Troy Davis' guilt is very much in question.

    Witnesses have recanted testimony. They have claimed that the police coerced them into making false statements. Other witnesses have implicated another person as the culprit.

    In his case, there appears to be no hope.

    I Think You are Thinking of a Troy Davis in... (none / 0) (#29)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 12:40:14 PM EST
     ...Georgia.  His is scheduled to be executed next week.

    In this case there was a survivor, and I believe she has also asked for clemency.  I am pretty sure his guilt is not in question, even by Buck.


    ScottW, you just repeated back (none / 0) (#30)
    by Peter G on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 01:15:21 PM EST
    to Lentinel exactly what s/he had said in her/his post.  What's your point?

    My Bad (none / 0) (#35)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Sep 19, 2011 at 09:24:29 AM EST
    Sorry lentinel.

    The once-esteemed US Court of Appeals (none / 0) (#1)
    by Peter G on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 09:16:59 PM EST
    for the Fifth Circuit, of course, could find no problem in 2009 with Buck's sentence.  Yesterday, the Fifth Circuit denied a stay.  I can't tell from the article, and it isn't covered on SCOTUSBlog yet (where I would look for the technical details), whether the stay was eventually granted by Justice Scalia (who, as "Circuit Justice," covers emergencies arising in that Circuit), or by a majority of the Court after Scalia denied or referred it.

    At what period (none / 0) (#2)
    by Rojas on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 09:39:49 PM EST
    was the fifth circuit "esteemed"?

    In anticipation of that question (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by Peter G on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 10:02:14 PM EST
    I provided a link to Wikipedia which answers you.  In my own words: During the height of the civil rights struggle, four of the five Fifth Circuit judges (hailing - at that time, prior to the Circuit's later growth which led to a split in 1981 - from Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia), along with an important minority of their district court colleagues, consistently and courageously (to the point that the judges needed personal bodyguards) upheld federal civil rights laws, Supreme Court precedent, and the rights of demonstrators and other activists.  There's a well-regarded book about it:  Unlikely Heroes, by South Carolina historian Jack Bass.

    Scalia's not dumb. (none / 0) (#4)
    by lyzurgyk on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 10:03:54 PM EST

    He knows Buck is stone cold guilty and will be executed eventually.  This way he can present an illusion of racial sensitivity.  

    The issue is not whether he is guilty. (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Peter G on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 09:32:00 AM EST
    The question is whether Buck is one of the very few, from among the many, many individuals convicted (and guilty) of first degree murder, who should suffer the ultimate penalty.  That decision was tainted by the presentation of "expert" testimony premised, in part, on overtly racist reasoning (that is, "Statistically, black people are more likely to commit crimes of violence; therefore, this person, because he is black, is more likely to present a future danger of violence." (characterized, not quoted)).  His death sentence should be commuted for this reason alone.

    No dissents from what I could tell (none / 0) (#5)
    by andgarden on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 10:49:49 PM EST

    I checked the actual docket (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by Peter G on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 10:32:17 AM EST
    The application for a stay was referred by Justice Scalia to the whole Court for action. So, by reference to the standard for granting a stay, this means that at least 5 Justices agreed that there is a reasonable possibility that at least 4 Justices would vote to grant certiorari (accept the case for full review) when such decisions are next announced (on Monday, October 3).  Even if there was a split vote on the stay, it would be unusual for any Justice to ask for the dissent to be noted publicly.

    Why does it matter (none / 0) (#7)
    by jbindc on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 07:34:20 AM EST
    What the victim's relatives want?

    While TL has long challenged (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by Peter G on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 09:20:40 AM EST
    the "victims' rights" movement in criminal proceedings, all "victims' rights" rules and statutes give a privileged voice to a murder victim's survivors at sentencing, including the life/death stage of capital cases.  The Supreme Court has approved these laws.

    I learn so much from you (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by sj on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 09:44:52 AM EST
    Please don't ever go away.

    Thanks so much for saying so (none / 0) (#11)
    by Peter G on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 10:21:56 AM EST
    I really appreciate that very kind comment.

    I understand (none / 0) (#12)
    by jbindc on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 10:22:44 AM EST
    But, aside from the legal implications, my question was more toward the inconsistency in the position - if one advocates that victims (or their survivors) should not be heard or have a place in criminal proceedings,, then one should not push or advocate to have those same people have their opinion heard (only if that opinion is for clemency, of course). My guess is that if the family said "Execute him", then that would not get the same consideration.

    it's (none / 0) (#15)
    by CST on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 10:35:17 AM EST
    one of the details of the case.  I think had they asked for execution it might also have been mentioned as one of the details of the case (often is).

    There was really no opinion given other than a statement.  It's certainly relevant legally.

    You are projecting a bit here.


    It wouldn't have been mentioned (none / 0) (#17)
    by jbindc on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 10:42:50 AM EST
    In either the article or especially  the post had the family member had said "execute him."

    I'm not projecting anything, but rather basing on past statements.  It's still an inconsistent position is all.


    It's not inconsistent to oppose a law (none / 0) (#20)
    by Peter G on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 11:18:15 AM EST
    and yet recognize, once that law is in place, that it can and should be invoked when it aids the side you favor, at least as long as it is being implemented in the other cases.

    Missing (none / 0) (#22)
    by jccamp on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 11:37:47 AM EST
    from at least some of the reports about "Survivor calls for clemency" is that the survivor has been identified as the defendant's own sister. Apparently, they did not have the same biological parents, but were raised in the same household as brother and sister. So, the "family member" cited in the reports is actually the shooter's family member, not the victim's.

    Would the news reports carry a different weight or slant if they said "Woman seeks mercy for own brother"?  


    Not disagreeing with CST, (none / 0) (#18)
    by Peter G on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 10:45:21 AM EST
    I would add that the survivors' support for life over death is less common, less expected given the understandable emotions involved, and thus both more newsworthy and perhaps entitled to more weight. There is an interesting organization that supports such families, called Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation.

    Details (none / 0) (#13)
    by jccamp on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 10:27:55 AM EST
    Some of the news reports are, perhaps, mistaken in the description of what actually happened during the sentencing hearing. A psychologist testifying for the defense said that he considered statistical factors regarding the defendant's liklihood of future violence, including age, sex, race, history of violence and drug use, socioeconomoc status and more. On cross, the prosecutor had the psychologist expand on what each factor would suggest about future violence. The doctor testified that , statistically, males were more violent than females, and that black people were more likely than other races to commit violent crimes. There was no other discussion or statements about race. Remember, the issue was first delivered on direct testimony of a defense witness. Contrary to some media reports, the prosecutor did not reference the defendant's race again.

    In closing, the defense claimed the doctor's testimony was that the defendant was unlikely to commit future violence. Not too surprisingly, the prosecution claimed that the testimony suggested otherwise.

    Under Texas law, a jury must weigh the potential for future violence from a defendant when considering sentence, thus the discussion about statistics and violence, etc

    A link to the 5CA decision, with details.

    I provided a link to the same opinion (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Peter G on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 10:40:19 AM EST
    in my original comment (#1).  Based on 35+ years' experience in hundreds of federal appeals, and from reading Supreme Court decisions reviewing Fifth Circuit opinions in capital habeas cases, I wouldn't necessarily place 100% confidence in whether that non-precedential ("unpublished") opinion had recited the facts about what the prosecutor said, or anything else, entirely correctly.

    details (none / 0) (#19)
    by jccamp on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 11:15:54 AM EST
    I did see your link only after I posted it myself, but thanks. It's always good to have source material posted.

    Are you aware of anything that suggests the 5CA decision has recited the ostensible facts incorrectly? The decision is fairly emphatic about the scope of the prosecutor's remarks, since they would be crucial to the argument.

    The decision also seems to make a fair case about the timeliness of the issues raised.  


    Reasons to question the 5th Circuit's recital (none / 0) (#21)
    by Peter G on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 11:32:58 AM EST
    would be in the petition for cert and the application for stay.  I haven't read either of them and don't have any more time to dig.  I can only infer that the capital defenders in Texas made a strong showing that the Fifth Cir may have gotten it wrong.  After all, they got a stay granted at the S.Ct. level, which is far from routine.

    I found (none / 0) (#23)
    by jccamp on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 11:48:03 AM EST
    the most recent application for cert, and it seems mainly to rely upon Texas AG assurances that they would not seek to rely on a procedural defense in six cases, including Buck. then, of course, that's exactly they did and prevailed.

    It's here.

    Given that the State won death sentences in (I think) all of the other five cases on re-hearing, I'm not sure why they are running out this string all the way. Why not just allow the re-hearing and win or lose there on the sentence?  


    Why are the Attorney General and (5.00 / 0) (#25)
    by Peter G on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 12:07:14 PM EST
    Solicitor General of the Texas state government not conceding the case, honoring their past promises, and disavowing any taint of racism in the process of deciding criminal cases, and in particular in deciding who should live and who should die?  Is that your question?  Ooo, ooo, I know the answer!  Call on me!!  Ready?  Rick Perry is running for President; that's why.

    "The victim's surviving relative... (none / 0) (#24)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 12:06:45 PM EST
    The victim's surviving relative asked for clemency.

    That quote is embarrassingly misleading, a much more factual comment should read something like:

    "Duane Buck's sister, who was one of the three victims her brother shot at point blank range, and who was the only survivor of that attack, asked for clemency for her brother."

    Or maybe better: (none / 0) (#26)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 12:08:37 PM EST
    "Duane Buck's sister, who was one of the three victims Duane Buck shot at point blank range, and who was the only survivor of that attack, asked for clemency for her brother."

    if you want to go with really misleading (none / 0) (#28)
    by CST on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 12:34:28 PM EST
    it could have also read "the only survivor of the attack has asked for clemency"

    As she is a victim herself.

    I agree that this changes the perspective a bit, but to me, it only makes it more compelling.

    How much has this woman already lost?

    That being said, I could never be on a jury in Texas because I flat out do not believe in capital punishment for any situation where the person in question has already been apprehended.


    "The victim's surviving relative..." (none / 0) (#31)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 01:25:23 PM EST
    Exactly, she is a victim of the attack. She is not at all a "surviving relative of a victim" of the attack. She was not related to any of the other victims of the attack, she is related only to the perpetrator. It's not even close to accurate.

    To me, to forget to mention that the person touted as asking for clemency for Buck is, in reality, Buck's own sister, is ridiculous and completely misleading.

    Not only that but J wrote as though there were only one victim: "The victim's surviving relative," which in the context of that sentence couldn't be more misleading because it leads one to believe, erroneously, there was only one victim when in fact there were three.

    Sorry, but I can't believe an attorney as smart as J had no understanding of the case she's sriting about nor that she didn't know what the words she was writing meant/implied/whatever.

    Promoting such gross inaccuracies only serves to undermine credibility.

    Anyway, enough of that, I don't understand what you meant when you wrote this:

    I flat out do not believe in capital punishment for any situation where the person in question has already been apprehended.
    What does that mean, you DO support CP for cases in which the person in question has NOT been apprehended? I don't get it...

    what I mean is that (none / 0) (#32)
    by CST on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 01:41:02 PM EST
    I do not in any way condone murder, and I believe capital punishment is murder.

    That being said, I can see where there are situations, such as self defense, or in war, or before a criminal has been apprehended, where someone kills someone because they are afraid for their own life.  And in those situations I can see shades of grey.

    But in a situation where someone is already under lock and key, there can be no justification for murder because they are not presenting an imminent threat.


    Thanks, that makes sense now. (none / 0) (#34)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 01:43:06 PM EST
    Well, (none / 0) (#27)
    by jccamp on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 12:29:39 PM EST
    I'd hesitate calling that "misleading" as in deliberately misleading (from this site). The news reports univeraslly call the sister a "survivor" "family member", etc. It's an easy mistake to make unless one really digs.

    It does typify media coverage, which tends toward the dramatic but unresearched and not always very accurate.

    I agree with your sentiments generally, though.


    material facts were misstated by the author(s) of this site, I'd be more inclined to give it a pass.

    Back in the day, when TL rally was about the Politics of Crime (which typically involves facts), and not Left-Leaning Political Coverage (which typically involves personal opinions) like it is now, this sort of loose relationship with facts used to come up often...