The U.S. Supreme Court has blocked the execution for Houston killer Duane Buck, at least for now, in a case that drew arguments that his punishment might have been tainted by racial testimony, the Houston Chronicle reports. The decision came about 7:30 p.m. last night, about 90 minutes after Buck was to have been executed. He was waiting in a holding cell next to the state’s death chamber.
Texas Defender Service lawyers argued Buck’s death sentence violated equal protection, due process, and 8th Amendment guarantees under the Constitution. Buck was sentenced to die for the 1995 shooting deaths of his former girlfriend, Debra Gardner and her friend, Kenneth Butler. The legal fight centered on a 2000 assertion by then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn that Buck’s case was among six capital trials that might have been tainted by racial testimony from psychologist Walter Quijano. Linda Geffen, who prosecuted Buck in his 1997 trial, joined in urging the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute the killer’s death sentence to life in prison. That panel unanimously rejected the request this week.