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Supreme Court halts Texas execution

By Associated Press
September 16, 2011

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HUNTSVILLE, Texas - The Supreme Court halted the execution yesterday of a black man convicted of a double murder in Texas 16 years ago after his lawyers contended his sentence was unfair because of a question asked about race during his trial.

Duane Buck, 48, was spared from lethal injection when the justices, without extensive comment, said they would review an appeal in his case. Two appeals, both related to a psychologist’s testimony that black people were more likely to commit violence, were before the court. One was granted; the other was denied.

Buck was sentenced to death for the fatal shootings of his former girlfriend and a man in her apartment in July 1995. Buck’s guilt is not being questioned, but his lawyers say the jury was unfairly influenced and that he should receive a new sentencing hearing. His lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court and Governor Rick Perry to block the execution.

Buck’s case is one of six convictions that John Cornyn, then the Texas attorney general, reviewed in 2000 and said needed to be reopened because of the racial reference.

In the other five cases, new punishment hearings were held and each convict again was sentenced to die. State attorneys contend Buck’s case was different from the others and that the racial reference was a small part of larger testimony about prison populations.

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