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Texas court bars inmate’s claim that he was sentenced to death because he is black

11:17 am in Uncategorized by Masoninblue

From the Frederick Leatherman Law Blog

By a vote of 6-3, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has rejected Duane Bucks’s request to vacate his death sentence and remand his case to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing. Mr. Buck was sentenced to death by a Harris County jury for the 1995 murder of his former girlfriend, Debra Gardner, and her friend, Kenneth Butler. He has admitted that he shot them to death in a jealous rage and does not challenge the conviction.

Mr. Buck challenges the death sentence because of the testimony of the prosecution’s controversial expert witness, Walter Quijano, regarding future dangerousness, a factor that the jury was instructed to consider in determining whether to sentence him to death.

Matthew Fleisher has the story:

Asked during his testimony if “the race factor, black,” increased Buck’s risk of re-offending, Quijano answered, “Yes.” He went on to testify that being either African-American or Latino “increases the future dangerousness for various complicated reasons.”

/snip/

What Quijano didn’t mention was that “the race factor, black,” also greatly increases one’s likelihood of being executed in Texas, where blacks are about three times more likely to get death penalty sentences for committing the same crimes as white people, according to University of Maryland professor Ray Paternoster.

Harris County, Texas, in which Houston is located, leads the state in executions with 100.

Because Mr. Buck asserted his claim in his second application for a writ of habeas corpus in violation of the rule that limits inmates to one application, the six-judge majority dismissed his appeal without considering the merits of his argument.

Judge Alcala, joined by judges Price and Johnson wrote a stinging 30-page dissent in which he said,

I respectfully dissent from the Court’s dismissal of applicant’s second subsequent application for a writ of habeas corpus. The record in this case reveals a chronicle of inadequate representation at every stage of the proceedings, the integrity of which is further called into question by the admission of racist and inflammatory testimony from an expert witness at the punishment phase. Applicant’s initial habeas counsel was so incompetent as to assert not even one arguably legitimate claim in the initial 11.071 application, which was summarily denied by this Court for raising only record-based or frivolous claims. As a result of prior habeas counsel’s errors and the combined force of state and federal procedural-default laws, no Court has ever considered the merits of applicant’s legitimate claims for post-conviction relief. This cannot be what the Legislature intended when it enacted Article 11.071 to provide capital habeas litigants “one full and fair opportunity to present all [] claims in a single, comprehensive post-conviction writ of habeas corpus[.]” See Ex parte Graves, 70 S.W.3d 103, 117 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002).

Since expert witnesses who predict that an inmate will be a danger to others, if released, are wrong 95% of the time, I would ban consideration of future dangerousness in all sentencings.

Whores like Quijano should be in prison instead of masquerading as experts in predicting future dangerousness.

The author of the article, Matthew Fleischer, was awarded a Fund for Investigative Journalism grant for his series Dangerous Jails.

If you believe Duane Buck should get a new sentencing, please sign this petition that was started by Linda Geffin, a former prosecutor who tried his case.

Schizophrenia and Predicting Future Dangerousness

10:27 am in Uncategorized by Masoninblue

Cross posted from Frederick Leatherman Law Blog

A woman in a straitjacket

Real mental health problems rarely look like the movies (Photo: Dima Bushkov / Flickr)

A person who comments at my site using the internet name, thejbmission, asked an excellent question about schizophrenics and why our legal and mental health systems wait until after a tragic event occurs before doing anything to prevent it.

The short answer is mental health experts cannot accurately and reliably predict future dangerousness by schizophrenics. They are as likely to be right as they would be if they flipped a coin.

Most people afflicted by schizophrenia are not violent and, since they are not a danger to themselves or to others, they cannot be involuntarily committed to a secure mental health treatment facility. Without medication they are often delusional and when they are delusional, they cannot hold a job. The antipsychotic medication that keeps the delusions at bay has unpleasant side effects, however, that leave them feeling deadened like zombies. Families can do little to help them and they are often homeless wandering aimlessly about our cities talking to the voices no one else can hear. They occasionally commit petty crimes to survive and when they do, they are likely to be arrested and taken to jail. They plead guilty, are sentenced to time served, and released to the streets to begin the endless cycle anew.

Our mental health laws prohibit involuntary commitments unless a mental health professional, who typically is a screener at a hospital ER, finds probable cause that the person is dangerous to himself or to others. Such a finding usually results after an attempt to commit suicide.

The involuntary commitment is limited to 72 hours and cannot be extended unless approved by a judge following a hearing. The patient has a right to be present at the hearing and represented by counsel. If the judge finds probable cause to believe that the patient is a danger to himself or to others, the involuntary commitment will be extended for a period of 30 days and, upon review, may be extended for another 30 day period, etc.

Most people are released after the 72 hour period.

Predictions by mental health experts regarding who will commit acts of future violence are about as likely to be accurate as a coin flip. Therefore, there is no factual, medical or legal justification for singling out anyone, whether schizophrenic or not, and confining them for any reason for any length of time unless, due to a recent event, they are a danger to themselves or to others. That danger must be fact-based and immediate.