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Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Response to U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in Buck v. Davis

For Immediate Release February 22, 2017

Court Ruling Grants New Sentencing Hearing for Duane Buck

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law issued the following statement regarding today’s Supreme Court decision in Buck v. Davis:

“Whether or not to impose the death sentence on a criminal defendant is the gravest task that a jury is called upon to perform,” said Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law President and Executive Director Kristen Clarke.  “Today’s Supreme Court decision in Buck v. Davis confirms that racial discrimination infects every level of our criminal justice system, including decisions about whether or not to impose a life or death sentence.  In this case, rather than presenting an individualized view of Mr. Buck at his sentencing hearing, the prosecutor relied squarely on an ‘expert’ report that stereotyped African Americans as dangerous and violent-prone.  The Court’s ruling today makes clear that race threatens the integrity of our criminal justice system but also casts further doubt on the continuing fairness of the death penalty as a form of punishment in our country.”

Background:
The Lawyers’ Committee and Jones Day, LLP filed an amicus curiae, “friend of the court,” brief in the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Buck v. Davis. The case involves the question of whether the Fifth Circuit improperly denied Duane Buck, a death row inmate, the right to appeal when his trial defense counsel knowingly presented an “expert” who testified that Buck was more likely to be dangerous in the future because he is African American, where future dangerousness was the central issue at sentencing.  The Lawyers’ Committee’s brief was filed in support of Mr. Buck and argued that the expert’s testimony, combined with a deeply engrained stereotype of “blacks as criminal,” tainting the jury’s decision approach to the sentencing phase of the trial. Mr. Buck was represented by the NAACP LDF, along with the Texas Defender Service and Holland & Knight, LLP.

 About the Lawyers’ Committee
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. Formed over 50 years ago, we continue our quest of “Moving America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and community development; economic justice; voting; education and criminal justice.  For more information about the Lawyers’ Committee, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org.


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