September 21, 2020

Texas execution halted amid Supreme Court review

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HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A black man convicted of a double murder in Texas 16 years ago was at least temporarily spared from lethal injection when the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review his lawyers’ claims that race played an improper role in his sentencing.

The court on Thursday halted the execution for Duane Buck, 48, two hours into a six-hour window when he could have been taken to the death chamber. Texas officials, however, did not move forward with the punishment while legal issues were pending.

Buck was sentenced to death for the fatal shootings of his ex-girlfriend and a man in her apartment in July 1995. His attorneys had asked both the Supreme Court and Texas Gov. Rick Perry to halt the execution because of a psychologist’s testimony that black people were more likely to commit violence. Buck’s guilt is not being questioned, but his lawyers contend the testimony unfairly influenced the jury and Buck should receive a new sentencing hearing.

The nation’s highest court, without extensive comment, said it would review an appeal related to that testimony. The decision meant Perry did not have to act on a request from Buck’s lawyers that the governor use his authority to issue a one-time 30-day reprieve.

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