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Supreme Court blocks Texas inmate's execution, cites racial bias


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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Supreme Court's Feb. 22 decision to block the execution of an African-American inmate on death row in Texas over racially biased testimony in his sentencing hearing is "another stride toward greater justice in our legal system," said a Catholic anti-death penalty leader.

"This decision reflects the extent to which the death penalty is racially biased and a broken policy," said Karen Clifton, executive director of the Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Death Penalty.

In a 6-2 ruling, the court agreed that Texas inmate Duane Buck had been unfairly represented by an expert defense witness who told jurors that Buck was more likely to commit violent crimes in the future because he is black.

"Buck may have been sentenced to death in part because of his race," wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in the majority opinion. "Our law punishes people for what they do, not who they are."

Buck's guilt or innocence was not at stake -- he was convicted 20 years ago for the 1995 murders of his ex-girlfriend and another man in front of her children. What had been called into question was whether he was given a fair sentence. Now he will be able to go back to a lower court and request a new sentencing hearing.

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