An examination of records in one Texas county shows that 92 percent of the men recently condemned to die have been African Americans.
A report published Monday by The Houston Chronicle found that of the last 13 men sentenced to death in Harris County, 12 have been black.
Among experts, Harris County is known as the death penalty capital of the United States. In fact, many observers believe the county set a record in 1994 by trying six separate capital murder cases in one week.
The issue of race has recently come into focus because one witness was allowed to testify that defendant Duane Buck was more likely to commit future acts of violence because he was black. The prosecutor pointed to the witness’ assertion in his closing remarks, and the all-white jury sentenced Buck to death.
“The more the defendant looks like you the harder it is to kill him – human nature being what it is,” defense attorney Robert Morrow told the Chronicle. “It’s something we have to be thinking about. It’s an issue we never should get too far out of the front of our consciousness.”
The Supreme Court halted Buck’s execution in September on the grounds that the jury had been tainted by racial testimony. Harris County District Attorney Patricia Lykos has not decided if she will seek the death penalty for Buck again.
Half of the African-American inmates currently on death row in Texas are from Harris County.
Watch this video from the Fox affiliate in Houston, broadcast Sept. 15, 2011.