A Texas inmate is scheduled for execution Thursday night and those critical of his sentencing believe his fate was sealed based on testimony from a psychologist who testified that being black made the man, Duane Buck, more prone to violence. If the execution goes as scheduled, Buck will become the second Texas inmate to die this week under the watch of Gov. Rick Perry, a GOP runner in the presidential campaign.
Buck killed his girlfriend and her male companion during a drug-induced rage and was found guilty of murder. No one – not even Buck – has challenged the verdict.
During the sentencing hearing, jurors had to decide if Buck posed a "future danger" to society in order to hand down the death penalty, as opposed to life in prison.
That answer was provided when prosecutors asked psychologist Dr. Walter Quijano if being black increased the possibility of a criminal being a future danger.
Dr. Quijano replied, "Yes."
After closing arguments were over, jurors indeed considered Buck a future danger and ordered him to death row.
Buck's lawyers contend the case was "tainted by considerations of race."
The possibility that a man was sent to die based on the color of his skin has outraged civil rights groups, death penalty opponents, and even one of the lawyers on the prosecution team that argued Buck should be put to death.
Linda Geffin was an Assistant District Attorney during Buck’s case, but has grown to regret the way the jury was convinced to opt for the death penalty.
"It is regrettable that any race-based considerations were placed before Mr. Buck's jury," Geffin wrote in a letter to Perry and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, asking for them to consider a retrial.
"No individual should be executed without being afforded a fair trial, untainted by considerations of race," she added.
The criticism against Perry's death penalty record was not simply based on the possibility that Buck will be executed because of the color of his skin.
Earlier this week, Steven Woods, who maintained his innocence, was put to death for a double murder, despite a lack of physical evidence and a co-defendant who admitted to killing the victims.
Woods' guilt was never proved – only assumed based on his controversial past and his association with the other convicted killer, Marcus Rhodes.
The controversial executions come only one week after Perry expressed pride in Texas' capital punishment laws and legal process, emphasizing his hard-line stance on the death penalty.
"The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear process in place of which - when someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our citizens, they get a fair hearing, they go through an appellate process, they go up to the Supreme Court of the United States, if that's required," Perry said during a GOP debate on September 7.
Perry added, "But in the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you're involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is, you will be executed."
The statement was received with applause from the debate's live audience.
Surveys show that an overwhelming majority of Americans support the death penalty. A Gallup poll released last year revealed that 64 percent of Americans are in support of the death penalty for someone convicted of murder, while only 29 percent opposed such a sentencing.
Nevertheless, some critics say Perry's record on the death penalty is a result of a lack of feeling and concern for the proper legal procedures.
"When it comes to death row, Perry is completely unfeeling and unemotional," said Ray Hill, who runs the Execution Watch website and radio show in Texas, in an interview with the U.K.’s Guardian. "It never strikes him that he should value the lives of those who are accused, even wrongfully."
According to the Houston Chronicle, Paddy Burwell, a retired Exxon geophysicist who served on the parole board from 1999-2005, could recall several troubling death row reviews on which he received subtle pressure from other members to vote against clemency.
“I don't think they care whether a person is guilty or not guilty,” Burwell said.
Duane Buck is scheduled for execution by lethal injection Thursday Sept. 15 at 6 P.M. Central Time.