In 2000, the Texas attorney general publicly stated that Buck deserved a new sentencing hearing because his death sentence was secured using inappropriate race-based testimony. New research has now confirmed that the Harris County district attorney’s office was three times more likely to seek the death penalty against African-American defendants like Buck, and Harris County juries were twice as likely to sentence African-American defendants like Buck to death. Yet Buck has yet to receive a new sentencing hearing.
Any defendant in these circumstances has the right to be heard regarding whether there was a fair trial. The American Bar Association abhors racial prejudice and discrimination of any kind, and it should go without saying that no one should be executed when there is a substantial issue whether race-based testimony infected the fairness of legal proceedings. As two U.S. Supreme Court justices have written about the case, Buck’s death sentence requires additional judicial review because “our criminal justice system should not tolerate” a death sentence “marred by racial overtones.” The ABA urges that Buck receive a new and fair sentencing hearing free of racial prejudice.
(Media contact: Meredith.Josef@americanbar.org)
Please click here for a biography and photo of Laurel G. Bellows, president of the American Bar Association.