Perry won’t preside over scheduled Texas execution
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Texas Gov. Rick Perry apparently will not be the one to preside over Thursday’s scheduled execution of an African American man who was sentenced to die after jurors were told that blacks are more likely to pose a future danger to the public.
Duane Edward Buck, 48, was convicted of fatally shooting two people near Houston in 1995. His attorney says he is entitled to a new sentencing hearing based on the racially charged testimony, but unless a final appeal attempt is successful, Buck will become the 11th inmate executed in Texas this year, the Houston Chronicle reports.
Buck’s stepsister, Phyllis Taylor, who was wounded in the shooting, has reportedly forgiven him and wants his death sentence commuted to life in prison. She met with staffers from Perry’s office last week, according to Buck’s attorney.
‘We still are hopeful the governor will grant a 30-day reprieve to allow state officials time to work together to ensure that Mr. Buck receives a sentencing hearing untainted by issues of race,” said Kate Black, Buck’s Houston-based attorney, in an interview with The Times. She is representing the inmate pro bono through the nonprofit Texas Defenders Service.
During last week’s GOP presidential debate, Perry responded to a question about Texas’ 234 executions during his tenure as governor by saying that he ‘never struggled’ with the issue because ‘the state of Texas has a very thoughtful, very clear process in place.’
But Perry will not be presiding over Buck’s execution, according to Lucy Nashed, a Perry spokeswoman.
Perry is out of state, so the responsibility falls to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a Republican campaigning for the seat being vacated by longtime Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Nashed told The Times.
Dewhurst has presided over previous executions in the governor’s absence, according to spokesman Mike Walz. Dewhurst declined to comment about the Buck case late Wednesday, Walz said.
Buck’s guilt is not in doubt. At issue is the sentencing hearing, at which jurors were asked to decide whether to condemn the Houston mechanic to death or to life in prison. Under Texas law, the jury must weigh whether the defendant poses a ‘future danger.’
Walter Quijano, a psychologist brought in to testify in Buck’s defense, at first said Buck was not likely to be dangerous because he had no previous history of violence. But when a prosecutor pressed him about whether Buck’s race ‘increases the future dangerousness,’ the psychologist said it did. Prosecutors cited his testimony in their closing argument.
Texas state attorneys later admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court that Quijano had wrongly injected race into the sentencing hearing for Buck and five other Texas death row inmates.
The other five inmates got new hearings, but state attorneys refused to give Buck one, and the courts upheld his death sentence.
Last week, one of the original prosecutors who handled Buck’s case, Linda Geffin, wrote a letter to Perry and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles in support of Buck’s petition for clemency or a new hearing. Although the board recommended against clemency, Geffin said Wednesday that she was still hopeful the governor’s administration would step in.
“There is still time to right a wrong. As every minute ticks by, there’s less time,” Geffin said. “Nobody’s saying let him out, let him free. But he is entitled to a fair and equitable trial.”
Also Wednesday, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Buck’s motion for a stay of execution. The court also denied Buck’s authorization to appeal an earlier rejection by the Houston Division of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
Black said Buck plans to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday.
--Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Houston