On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a new hearing for a Black Texas inmate who claims improper testimony about his race tainted his death sentence.
According to The Guardian, the justices voted 6-2 in favor of Duane Buck, who has been trying for years to get federal courts to look at his claim that his rights were violated. Buck says jurors were told by a defense expert witness that Buck was more likely to be dangerous in the future because he is Black.
Chief Justice John Roberts said “There is reasonable probability that Buck was sentenced to death in part because of his race,” in his opinion. “This is a disturbing departure from the basic premise that our criminal law punishes people for what they do, not who they are.”
Roberts wrote that the testimony of Dr. Walter Quijano “was potent evidence. Dr. Quijano’s testimony appealed to a powerful racial stereotype – that of Black men as ‘violence prone’.”
Buck was convicted in the murder of his ex-girlfriend and another man in 1995. His case was among six that Texas’s then Attorney General, John Cornyn, in a news release even said the case needed to be reopened in 2000.
He cited Dr. Quijano’s statements, saying they were racially charged. Cornyn, who is a Republican, is now the state’s senior US senator.
Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas were the only two high court judges that dissented.
“Having settled on a desired outcome, the court bulldozes procedural obstacles and misapplies settled law to justify it,” Thomas said.