Texas inmate Duane Buck (pictured) is one of seven death row inmates whose death sentences were tainted by improper racial testimony presented at their trials. In 2000, then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn (now Senator) confessed the state’s error to the U.S. Supreme Court, noting that seven cases had been tainted by improper prosecution testimony. “It is inappropriate to allow race to be considered as a factor in our criminal justice system,” Cornyn said. “The people of Texas want and deserve a system that affords the same fairness to everyone.” Six inmates received new sentencing trials, but Buck did not. All seven trials involved testimony by psychologist Walter Quijano, who told juries that defendants were more likely to commit future crimes if they were black or Hispanic. The potential for future dangerousness is a key factor in juries’ sentencing decisions in Texas. The prosecutor at Buck’s sentencing trial asked Quijano: “The race factor, black, increases the future dangerousness for various complicated reasons; is that correct?” “Yes,” Quijano said. Originally, Quijano had been called by the defense and testified that he did not believe Buck would be dangerous in the future.

According to Andrea Keilen, director of the Texas Defender Service, “It’s very rare to see an attorney general concede error in a capital case, much less a series of capital cases. It shouldn’t be controversial, and yet no one has stepped forward” to give Buck a new sentencing trial. Buck is scheduled to be executed on September 15.

(S. Kreytak, “Petition: Condemned man’s sentence racially tinged,” Austin American-Statesman, August 31, 2011.) See also Race and Texas. See Press Release from Texas Defender Service.