Thursday, the Supreme Court of the U.S. halted the execution of Duane Buck, citing questions about racist remarks made during his trial.
Buck, whose conviction for fatally shooting his ex-girlfriend and another man was never in question, was spared lethal injection, while the court reviewed the details of the case. The court issued a writ of certiori, granting Buck a reprieve. If they decide the facts do not warrant a stay, Buck will be executed at a later date.
At the heart of the issue lies a racist statement made during the trial. Although Buck’s guilt is not in doubt, his lawyers assert that the jury was unduly influenced by a statement from a prosecution witness. During the trial, the D.A.’s psychologist testified that African-Americans were more likely to commit violence. Because of this, Buck’s attorneys assert that the statement factored into his sentencing for the crime. They are asking his sentenced be changed from the death penalty to life in prison.
Affording to the Huffington Post, Buck’s case is one of six that former Texas Attorney General John Cornyn reviewed in 2000 because of a similar racial reference. However, “in the other five cases, new punishment hearings were held and each convict again was sentenced to die. State attorneys contend Buck’s case was different from the others and that the racial reference was a small part of larger testimony about prison populations.”
Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, Texas governor and Republican president candidate Rick Perry, declined to intervene. Perry is a staunch death penalty advocate and has presided over 234 executions during his tenure as governor.
Buck’s reprieve gives hope to supporters of another man scheduled to die. Many have rallied and called for a stay of execution for Troy Davis, a Georgia man.
In 1991 Davis was convicted of killing Mark MacPhail, an off-duty police officer. Despite conflicting eyewitness testimony, and many witnesses recanting all together, Davis is scheduled to die next week. Death penalty opponents point to Davis’ case as reason to abolish the punishment. Former president Jimmy Carter is also calling for a stay in Davis’ execution. Because, according to President Carter, the “risks taking the life of an innocent man and would be a grave miscarriage of justice.”