The Supreme Court today ordered a new hearing for a black Texas prison inmate who claims improper testimony about his race tainted his death sentence, the Associated Press reports. The justices voted 6-2 in favor of inmate Duane Buck. Buck had tried for years to get courts to look at his claim that his rights were violated when jurors were told by a defense expert witness that he was more likely to be dangerous in the future because he is black. Chief Justice John Roberts said the federal appeals court that heard Buck’s case was wrong to deny him a hearing.
In Texas death penalty trials, one of the “special issues” jurors must consider when deciding punishment is whether the defendant they’ve convicted would be a future danger. Roberts wrote that the testimony of Dr. Walter Quijano “was potent evidence. Dr. Quijano’s testimony appealed to a powerful racial stereotype — that of black men as ‘violence prone.’ ” Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented. “Having settled on a desired outcome, the court bulldozes procedural obstacles and misapplies settled law to justify it,” Thomas said. Buck was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend and another man in 1995.