1 Texas county condemns 12 black men to death

Twelve of the last 13 new death sentences obtained by the Texas Harris County District Attorney’s Office have been against African-Americans.

Duane Buck, 48, is among the dozen.

Buck was sentence to death for the fatal shootings of his 32-year-old ex-girlfriend and a man in her apartment back in July 1995 a week after Buck and his girlfriend had ended their relationship. His attorneys have made the case that Buck deserves a new sentence hearing because of a former prison psychologist’s testimony that black people were more likely to commit violence.

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However, the Supreme Court has already denied the appeal for the death row inmate.

The racial overtones in this case have been brought to the attention of a number of faith leaders, former prosecutors, elected officials and civil rights groups, such as the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI).

EJI noted that at Buck’s capital sentencing trial, “an expert psychologist testified that because Buck is an African-American, he is more likely to commit acts of violence in the future.”

“In Texas, to obtain a death sentence, the State has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there is a probability the defendant would commit violent criminal acts in the future,” EJI reported.

Harris County District Attorney Patricia Lykos may be under pressure to guarantee that her office is free of racial bias and consent to a new, fair punishment phase hearing for Buck.

She recently told the Houston Chronicle that she has not made a decision yet on whether or not to seek a new execution date for Buck.

The U.S. Supreme Court halted Buck’s execution by lethal injection in September in a last-minute reprieve.

An analysis by the Houston Chronicle shows a pattern based on race in the role of capital punishment in Harris County, Texas. It reports that the last white man to join death row from Harris County was in 2004.

The analysis, with data from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, also shows that blacks account for about a half of recent murder arrests in Harris County and are more often charged with capital punishment than whites or Hispanics.

African-Americans comprise 18.9 percent of the population of Harris County and whites make up 56.6 percent, according to 2010 national census data.