Thursday, September 15, 2011

Duane Buck - At Least One More Time - UPDATED

SCOTUS comes through.
Nobody else gave a shit that his sentence was infected by racism.  Nobody else cared that the others so identified got new sentencing hearings.  Nobody else gave a damn.
The general rule these days is that you don't want your case to end up in the Supreme Court.
God knows it isn't the friendliest place to those seeking last minute stays of their executions.  Just ask the thousand plus (I don't really know the number - don't know if anyone does) who have been turned down.
But sometimes it's all you've got.  For Duane Buck, and at least for today, that was enough.
Texas had six hours in which to kill him.  They held off for two waiting for the Court to rule on the last ditch petitions before it.
And then the Court told them to stop.  Here's the order, as stark as these things are.
Buck stay
In a few months, the Court will decide whether to hear the case. 
Until then, Duane Buck lives.
And maybe, just maybe racial injustice moves one baby step toward its demise.
Nah.  That's too much to hope for.

Here's the motion to stay that the Court granted. 

Buck Motion to Stay Execution


  1. This is probably a dumb question that probably has a simple answer, but I've always wondered why it seems to common in death penalty cases that relief is requested, and granted and denied, at almost literally the last second. The motion to stay that the SCOTUS granted was apparently filed in the SCOTUS on the same day that Duane Buck was scheduled to be executed. This has got to wreak havoc with the condemned's psyche (although I suppose on the other hand something might be said for holding out hope until the last second). The Sharon Keller fiasco as I recall involved a similar scenario. I'm sure there's something about death penalty cases in particular that makes this situation unavoidable, but it's always struck me as very strange.

  2. It's mostly logistics.

    There's been stuff filed on a regular basis, and if the case gets to the point where an execution is coming soon the pace may pick up as lawyers continue to scour the record and the facts and the legal landscape with extra energy. But also:

    Courts sit on things until they have to decide (often in the hope that a governor will take them off the hook), which means no going to a higher court until there's a decision from below.

    Governors keep hoping that courts will decide and take them off the hook, which means that things sometimes sit in abeyance.

    New facts and theories sometimes arise late. Claims of competence to be executed (what are known as Ford claims), for instance, aren't considered ripe until an execution is imminent. In the Richard case you refer to (where Keller shut the courthouse door), the argument that should have gotten Richard a stay was based on a decision from the Supreme Court (to hear Baze v. Rees) issued that morning.

    And, of course, there are the desperate moves where creative lawyers try something, hoping it will take. And once in a while it does.