U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court Denies Cert in Capital Case with 'Racial Overtones'; Dueling Opinions Issued


The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to grant certiorari in the case of a Texas death row inmate who contends his sentencing was tainted by racism.

The court refused the appeal by Duane Buck, who sought to overturn his death sentence because a defense expert testified that being black increases the statistical probability of future dangerousness. Buck was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend in 2005 and sentenced to death after a jury found Buck was a future danger to society.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented from the cert denial in an opinion (PDF) joined by Justice Elena Kagan. Sotomayor wrote that the case was “marred by racial overtones” and misleading remarks by the state during the appeal. The remarks concerned how Buck’s case differed from others in which the state confessed error because of similar remarks by the same expert witness.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. countered with a statement (PDF) defending the cert denial that was joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen G. Breyer. The statement allowed that the defense testimony was “bizarre and objectionable” and would provide a basis for a reversal of the sentence if the prosecution were to blame. But the expert was hired by the defense, and had first made the assertion about reoffending probabilities in a defense report, Alito said.

Hat tip to How Appealing.

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