Racial Discrimination in Harris County Death Penalty Case; TCADP to Discuss Duane Buck Case at Liberty on the Rocks Houston Thursday

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Non-profit educational and liberty advocacy group, Liberty on the Rocks Houston, will host Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty on December 5 to update the public about the Duane Buck death penalty case.

Liberty on the Rocks Houston will host speakers Kristin Houlé, Executive Director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, and Pat Monks, attorney and representative of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. As part of a coalition of civil liberties groups including many prominent legal and religious figures, Houlé and Monks will be discussing the Duane Buck appeals process seeking a resentencing hearing.

The journey of Duane Buck, sentenced to death in Harris County, has gone on for over fifteen years. His guilt in the murders of Debra Gardner and Kenneth Butler in 1995 is not at question in the appeal, but the process of his sentencing is rife with controversy. Buck’s legal team affirms the hearing was tainted with racial discrimination in the form of expert testimony from psychiatrist Dr. Walter Quijano. Court documents show the testimony flatly stated that African Americans are more prone to future dangerousness, a factor that Texas juries must take into consideration when deciding between the death sentence and life without parole (Harris County, 208th District Court, Cause No. 699684) (New York Times, "Texas Execution Stayed Because of Race Testimony," Sept. 16, 2011).

Dr. Quijano’s testimony in six cases, including Buck’s, had been identified in 2000 by then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn as unfair and necessitating a new sentencing hearing. Although the five other identified cases have been granted hearings, Buck’s appeal was recently dealt another blow in a late-November rejection by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, WR-57,004-03). The Harris County District Attorney’s Office is free to set an execution date for Buck.

In September 2011, the United States Supreme Court issued a reprieve to Buck, a surprise move that stayed Buck’s execution just hours before he was to be put to death. The Supreme Court ultimately chose not to hear Buck’s appeal (Buck v. Thaler, 132 S. Ct. 945 (2011)). The legal team of Buck will again seek a hearing from the Supreme Court, as their options in this case are becoming fewer.

Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty is a network of political and social conservatives who question the alignment of capital punishment with conservative principles and values. Conservatives Concerned is a project of Equal Justice USA, a national organization working to end the death penalty in the United States.

The Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP) is a statewide, grassroots membership organization working to end the death penalty in Texas. TCADP engages in outreach, education, and advocacy aimed at raising awareness of issues related to the death penalty and mobilizing the citizens of Texas - and their elected officials - to support abolition.

Liberty on the Rocks Houston is a non-profit libertarian educational organization that empowers and assists liberty enthusiasts in becoming better connected, informed, and involved. Everyone is welcome to bi-weekly happy hours that include speakers from all walks of life discussing a variety of topics related to personal freedom, individual liberty and local politics.

The event will be held on Thursday, December 5, at Hefley’s Bar, 138 West Gray Street, Houston, TX, 77019, beginning at 7:30 p.m. You can find more information on the event page.

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Zoe Russell