The Effect of Racial Discrimination in the Use of Capital Punishment – The New Yorker



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“Racial discrimination is unavoidable in considering the Texas death-penalty case of Duane Buck. In the campaign to reduce his punishment from execution to life in prison, the Inc. Fund has been prominent and tenacious, because the discrimination in his case is blatant. Buck was convicted of murdering two women in 1996. He was sentenced to death in 1997. To sentence an offender to death under Texas law, a jury must unanimously conclude that the defendant is likely to commit future criminal acts of violence. In the Buck case, a psychologist named Walter Quijano provided evidence to that effect. Before trial, he claimed in a report that Buck was more likely to be dangerous because he is black. He wrote, “Race. Black. Increased probability.”

Major studies have disproved the long-standing, prejudicial assumption of a link between race and dangerousness. In 2000, the Texas attorney general said that asserting that connection was both false and unconstitutional. In the case of Victor Hugo Saldaño, who was found guilty of murder, the Supreme Court vacated his death sentence and sent the matter back to a Texas court for a new sentencing hearing at the request of the attorney general. “My position in this matter is taken with full respect and empathy for the suffering experienced by victims of crime and their families,” he said. “But the public cannot have confidence in a criminal justice system if race is going to be considered at all in determining whether the ultimate penalty will be given.” He pledged that in the Buck case and six others, “in which testimony was offered by Dr. Quijano that race should be a factor for the jury to consider in making its determination about the sentence in a capital murder trial,” there would be new and fair sentencing hearings.”


Piece from The New Yorker which details through multiple criminal cases that the U.S. justice system unfairly favored the death penalty for black men.


  • Lincoln Caplan


  • Racial Discrimination and Capital Punishment: The Indefensible Death Sentence of Duane Buck


  • The New Yorker


  • April 20, 2013


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