A black man who was convicted of a 1995 double murder had his death penalty rescinded Tuesday over a racist witness who testified during his trial.
The U.S. Supreme Court ordered a re-sentencing for Duane Buck, 54, in February after he appealed his death sentence. An expert trial witness, a psychologist, had testified at Buck’s sentencing hearing that he was more likely to be dangerous if ever released because he was black.
Buck reached a plea agreement with county prosecutors Tuesday and had his sentence reduced to life in prison, the Texas Tribune reported.
“After reviewing the evidence and the law, I have concluded that, twenty-two years after his conviction, a Harris County jury would likely not return another death penalty conviction in a case that has forever been tainted by the indelible specter of race,” District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement. “Accordingly, in consideration for Buck pleading guilty to two additional counts of attempted murder we have chosen not to pursue the death penalty.”
Buck shot both his girlfriend and her friend to death in 1995 before trying to kill his sister, Phyllis Taylor, who survived gunshot wounds. Taylor has since become one of Buck’s main advocates for preventing his execution and was grateful for the change in sentence.
“Talking about that night is deeply emotional for me. So I thank the District Attorney, Kim, for agreeing to this sentence because the thought of going through another trial was just too much to bear,” Taylor said in a statement.
Buck will be eligible for parole in 2035 under his new sentence, but prosecutors say they will do everything they can to make sure he never gets out.
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