"Rick Perry, the frontrunner to become the Republican candidate in next year's presidential election, has just hours left to prevent a man being put to death
in Texas in a case in which the jury was told the prisoner was a danger to the public – and should therefore be executed – because he was black.
Duane Buck is one of four men scheduled to die by lethal injection in Texas, where Perry is governor, over the next eight days – an exceptional rate even in this execution-happy state. At Buck's sentencing hearing, the jury that set his punishment was informed by a psychologist that black people had a higher rate of violent behaviour, a statement used by the prosecution as its key argument against giving him an alternative penalty of life imprisonment.
At the hearing, a psychologist, Dr Walter Quijano, was called by the defence and testified that he did not believe Buck would be a future danger as the murders had been a one-off crime of passion. But under cross-examination, the prosecution pressed him about Buck's ethnicity as an African-American.
"You have determined that the … race factor, black, increases the future dangerousness for various complicated reasons. Is that correct?" the prosecution asked.
"Yes," replied Quijano.
The prosecution later exhorted the jury to make their decision on the basis of Quijano's testimony. The jury found that Buck did pose a future danger of violence, and put him on death row.
In 2000, the then attorney general in Texas, John Cornyn, admitted that the racial testimony of Quijano had wrongfully been allowed to prejudice sentencing in seven separate cases. Six of those cases were reheard as a result, but, in a legal oversight, Buck's never was.
Buck's lawyer, Katherine Black, is petitioning Perry to commute his execution to allow resentencing. "This case violates the US constitution and undermines our moral values. A person has a right to be sentenced based not on the colour of their skin," the petition reads."