The Supreme Court blocked the execution of a Texas murderer Wednesday because of racially discriminatory testimony presented by his own defense team.
The 6-2 ruling was the second in the court’s new term to overturn a death sentence, and it could be a harbinger of things to come. The justices heard another death penalty case from Texas in November that hinges on a prisoner’s intellectual disability.
Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the ruling in favor of Duane Buck, who was sentenced to death following the testimony of a defense witness in 1996 who said he would be more dangerous in the future because he is black. Buck either will be re-sentenced to life in prison or will receive a new sentencing hearing.
The testimony “said, in effect, that the color of Buck’s skin made him more deserving of execution,” Roberts wrote. “No competent defense attorney would introduce such evidence about his own client.”
The effect of that testimony, Roberts said, “cannot be dismissed as de minimis. Buck has demonstrated prejudice.”
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SOURCE: USA Today, Richard Wolf