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Supporters say race unfairly sent man to death row

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

There's a new push to save a convicted killer from being executed. No one disputes the fact that Duane Buck killed two people. The issue is some of the testimony that led to his death sentence. More than 100 civil rights leaders, lawyers, politicians and clergy are now calling on the state to step in.

This case has the attention of people all over the country. It's not about guilt and innocence, but about whether or not race played a factor in sending a man to death row.

Buck was convicted of killing two people and shooting his sister after a disagreement with his girlfriend. He killed that girlfriend in the street as her daughter pleaded with him not to shoot. That is not in dispute, but sending Buck to death row is based on testimony during his sentencing in 1995.

Former Texas Governor Mark White said, "There were racial suggestions made that he'd be more likely to reoffend just because he was black."

White was on the steps of the courthouse Wednesday morning asking that Buck receive a new hearing.

"It's expensive to keep people on death row," White said. "It's unfair to have someone on death row if they're not supposed to be there."

Buck has the support of a lot of people who think his trip to death row was unfair.

Buck's attorney Katherine Kase said, "We never say oh, you're African American, oh you're Mexican American, so you should be put to death. We all recognize that that would be wrong."

While this case has already been to the Supreme Court, Buck's backers say the question of fairness was never answered and so they've appealed again. The case now sits in the hands of the Texas Court of Appeals, with no timetable as to when or if they'll reconsider.

"When there is no question of guilt or innocence, it's a question of whether the sentence was appropriately applied," said Reverend Susan Buchanan with the United Methodist Church. "In this case it was not."

The district attorney's office was going to set an execution date but because of the outcry has given the court of appeals the option of rehearing the case for sentencing.

The DA issued a statement that read, "After giving the defense an additional opportunity to present their case to the Court of Criminal Appeals, we are waiting on their ruling and we will act accordingly."

A family member of one of the victims says they need closure and don't understand why after nearly 20 years he's still on death row. They believe he was fairly convicted and they want him put to death.

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