The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday halted the execution of a black man convicted 16 years ago of a double murder in Texas after his lawyers argued his jury was unfairly tainted by racial testimony.
The justices stayed the the lethal injection of 48-year-old Duane Buck pending a review of an appeal in his case. He was sentenced to death for gunning down his ex-girlfriend and a man in her apartment in July 1995.
His guilt is not in dispute, but Buck’s lawyers claim he should receive a new sentencing hearing because during his trial a psychologist testified that black people were more prone to violence.
“We are relieved that the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the obvious injustice of allowing a defendant’s race to factor into sentencing decisions and granted a stay of execution to Duane Buck,” one of Buck’s attorney’s told the Associated Press.
“No one should be put to death based on the color of his or her skin. We are confident that the court will agree that our client is entitled to a fair sentencing hearing that is untainted by considerations of his race.”
His attorneys had asked Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the district attorney for a new trial, but were denied.
Buck’s execution would have been the second this week.
Perry holds the record for most executions ever for a governor, presiding over 235 executions. At NBC’s Republican presidential debate in early September, he said he “never struggled” with the thought of an innocent person being executed in Texas.
Perry vetoed a bill that would have exonerated the mentally retarded and juveniles from the death penalty. The governor also fought with the Bush Administration on the case of 51 Mexicans placed on death row, and battled with the Obama cabinet and Mexican officials over the status of Humberto Leal Jr., before signing off on his execution in early July.