Because He’s Black

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Duane Buck.

Does that name mean anything to you?

I started writing this blog to present the history of uncivil rights in this country, motivated by the rising overt racism in this country that, so ironically, President Obama’s Presidency engendered.

Unfortunately, history in uncivil rights is being made every day now. Duane Buck is a case in point.

DuaneBuck

Duane Buck

He is an African-American man who could make case history when the Supreme Court considers his appeal of his death sentence meted out by Texas because of an “expert” witness who says that he will continue to be dangerous because he is black.

Mr. Buck is a murderer. He admits it. He killed his ex-girlfriend and a male friend of hers in 1995. He has been on death row since his conviction and sentencing.

In Texas, the key to whether someone is put to death or not is based on “future

Quijano

Walter Quijiano

dangerousness.” In a supremely tragic irony, it was Mr. Buck’s own lawyer who called the now notorious psychologist Walter Quijano, who testified that Mr. Buck’s race is an indicator of that dangerousness. The prosecutor, who must have been jumping with joy, was able to have the psychologist re-confirm that notion.

 

In more than 100 capital cases, Mr. Quijano, who is from the Philippines, testified that African-American and Latino defendants were especially dangerous.

Because it was Mr. Buck’s lawyer who put the psychologist on the stand, thereby allowing him to make his conclusion, Mr. Buck – unlike several other successful death sentence appeals involving the same testimony – has not been considered entitled to a discrimination-free hearing.

The Supreme Court stayed Mr. Buck’s execution in 2011, but at the same time denied an appeal based on the psychologist’s lethal judgment. The new appeal is based on Mr. Buck’s rightful claim that his trial lawyer was ineffective. And according to the Houston Chronicle, even the assistant district attorney who originally prosecuted him agrees that he should have a new sentencing hearing.

The world should be watching SCOTUS closely when it hears and debates this appeal. It goes to the heart of all that has been wrong in this country for hundreds of years in the matter of color. The psychologist’s testimony could have come out of the mouth of a slave-owner two hundred years ago as a reason not to free slaves. How long will we let it go on?

Footnote: A word on the notion of “future dangerousness” being considered when deciding judicial murder. Aside from all of my other objections to the death penalty, this notion allows jurors to play God and pretend that they can see into the heart and soul of another human being. Daily I meet people who think they understand other people’s motivations, and they are so far from the truth that it is laughable.

In the case of judicial murder, it is not a laughing matter. For anyone to think they can judge whether a human being who has admitted guilt will not someday truly atone for what he or she has done and work out their repentance in miraculous ways is to say that human life itself is meaningless.

For that is what life is, in my opinion: a classroom in which we all have opportunities to do good or to do evil and to let the good we do generate more good and the evil we do teach us to recognize where we went wrong and therefore find the path that leads to good.

By the standard of “future dangerousness,” many of our Presidents and politicians, past and present, would not be long for this world.

 

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