Study: Texas County 3 Times More Likely to Seek Death Penalty With Black Defendents
An appeal filed by prisoner Duane Buck contained a study which showed that prosecutors in Harris County, Texas are three times more likely to seek the death penalty when there is a black defendant. Harris county jurors are also twice as likely to impose the death penalty on African-American defendants. Due to this disparity, Mr. Buck, a prisoner sentenced to death in 1995, is challenging his death sentence as an unconstitutional product of racial discrimination.
The study was done by the University of Maryland and shows the extent of racial discrimination in Texas, the death penalty capital of America. Professor Raymond Paternoster of the university’s institute of criminal justice and criminology was commissioned to complete the research on behalf of Buck’s legal team.
“The probability that the district attorney will advance a case to a [death] penalty trial is more than three times as high when the defendant is African American than for white defendants,” Paternoster writes. He adds: “The disparity by race of the defendant, moreover, cannot be attributed to observed case characteristics because these cases are those that were most comparable”.
Bucks’s attorney Christina Swarns, of the NAACP legal defense fund, says this fits a pattern of discrimination in Texas.
“Over generations there has never been a time in Texas when the death penalty did not yield evidence of racial discrimination. Any way you slice our new research, you find it.”
Paternoster’s report was filed on Wednesday with the Harris County district court as part of a habeus petition in Buck’s case.