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A death row inmate’s last-ditch effort to stay alive has gone before the U.S. Supreme Court in one of the most bizarre cases many have heard in quite some time.

Duane Buck was sentenced to die for the 1995 shooting deaths of his ex-girlfriend, her friend, and the shooting of his stepsister, who survived the violent encounter.

Buck’s appeal centers on statements from the prosecution’s psychologist, who testified Buck was more likely to be dangerous in the future because he is Black. He was subsequently sentenced to death.

The inmate’s own defense lawyer hired the psychologist and allowed the expert witness’ testimony to be entered into the case. Buck is now requesting a re-sentencing for his crime without the impact of racial bias.

Angel Harris, Assistant Counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, said on NewsOne Now that this case is significant because “in order to have a death sentence in Texas, you have to prove future dangerousness.”

Harris continued, “With that testimony, it not only introduced racial bias, but it also validated the racialized fear of violence.”

The proceedings of this case have far greater implications on the state of African-American men in this country, because “a lot of people view Black men and Black people in general through a lens of violence.”

Furthermore, “having an expert validate that racial claim is very dangerous and problematic,” Harris said. “Everyone in the courtroom recognized the fact that this was a problem and that it was highly prejudicial for Mr. Buck.”

NewsOne Now panelist Kristen Clarke, who was also in the courtroom during Wednesday’s Supreme Court hearing of the Buck case, told host Roland Martin, “This is probably one of the most important civil rights cases to go before the court this term.”  

Clarke explained all of the Supreme Court Justices seemed concerned about the case. She quoted Justice Samuel Anthony Alito, one of the most conservative justices, saying this is “truly bizarre that you would have an expert say that because this man is Black, he’s likely to pose a danger to the public in the future.”

Clarke said, “I think the court is poised to do the right thing,” adding, “The big takeaway from this case is that race continues to infect every level of our criminal justice system.

“We’re not just talking about street level stops, we’re talking about all the way down to what happens when sentencing decisions are made about whether you impose life or death.”  

Watch Roland Martin, Angel Harris, Kristen Clarke, and the NewsOne Now panel discuss the case in the video clip above.


Watch NewsOne Now with Roland Martin, in its new time slot on TV One.


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