There is a slow trend moving towards eliminating the death penalty. And 17 states, with Maryland being the most recent one, have joined in the process. There are many reasons for the elimination of the death penalty in America and race disparity is just one of them. Black men who are under represented in the overall population are over represented in the prison population and on death row. And states like Texas, Virginia and Florida trend towards executions, even where there are constitutional law issues.
The Texas case of Duane Buck is a prime example of how the disparity of blacks on death row occurs. Buck was found guilty of killing his girlfriend and her friend. He had a sentencing hearing where he could be sentenced to life without parole or the death penalty. A state psychologist testified in 1997 that blacks are more likely to be a threat to society and eluded that the death penalty was a more appropriate penalty. Buck was sentenced to death based on the state doctor’s opinion at his sentencing hearing in 1997. Now the prosecutor who assisted in his conviction and sentencing is speaking out to stay his execution.
There is no question that Buck killed his girlfriend and her friend in 1995. The issue is not one of innocence in his case. Yet, the constitution still guarantees a fair trial. And fairness may have been lacking in the case of Duane Buck. Unfortunately, his case is not one that publicly screams for a stay since it does not involve an innocence factor, like the Troy Davis case. Davis was ultimately executed despite his claims of innocence. Linda Geffin, the second-chair prosecutor who helped win Buck’s death sentence in 1997 now opposes his execution. He could have received a sentence of life without parole had the testimony been different. The testimony of the psychologist in effect convicted Buck to the death sentence based on being black and not for his own actions.
In the case of Buck, his final appeal is pending. The Harris County prosecutor intends to seek an execution date if the final appeal is concluded unsuccessfully for Buck.
The death penalty has not been a deterrent to crime, is expensive, racially biased and unfair. Taxpayers spend millions on a failed system. One Maryland commission found that pursuing a death penalty case is three times more expensive to taxpayers than pursuing a non-capital punishment case. In death sentences, almost half of those receiving the death penalty are black men where black males make up a significantly smaller population. The prison population is over 40 percent black men while black men make up only 6 percent of the population. Life without parole should replace the death penalty as the most severe punishment in America.
To read more on Duane Buck, see the Democracy Now video and make your decision as to whether Buck should be executed or granted a new sentencing hearing. LegalSpeaks will continue with updates on this case.