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U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Two Death Penalty Cases Next Term

Published: Jul 25, 2016 in Criminal Defense

Houston criminal defense lawyer Ned Barnett is knowledgeable about Texas death penalty cases. He has more than 30 years of experience representing people in Houston and surrounding areas. If you have been charged with any crime, contact him for a confidential case evaluation at (713) 222-6767.

Texas has executed 537 people since 1982 and consistently carries out the most executions in the country. According to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP), Harris County alone accounts for 126 of the 537 executions, which would rank it second in executions in the nation if it were a state.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Monday, June 6, 2016 that it will hear two death penalty cases next term, which begins in October. Both of those cases involve African American inmates currently on death row in Texas. While neither of these cases will address the constitutionality of the death penalty itself, just last term, Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg urged the court to accept a case that will allow them to consider that issue.

Sentenced to Death Due to Future Dangerousness

The first case involves death row inmate Duane Buck who was sentenced to die in 1997 for murdering his girlfriend, Debra Gardner, and a male friend in front of Gardner’s children. Buck’s attorneys are asking that he receive a new sentencing hearing based on the claim that his trial attorney was constitutionally ineffective and that race played a role in his sentencing. According to a study conducted by the University of Maryland, juries were twice as likely to impose the death penalty against black defendants between 1992 and 1999 in Harris County, which is where Buck was sentenced.

In Buck’s case, Dr. Walter Quijano, a clinical psychologist who was called as an expert witness by Buck’s attorney, presented testimony that Buck was more likely to be future danger to society because he is black. Under Texas law, a jury may impose a death sentence based solely on future dangerousness of the defendant. The Texas Attorney General took remedial steps in six other cases that relied on similar comments from Dr. Quijano, but the state did not take such action in Buck’s case. The state based their decision on the fact that the expert witness was called by Buck’s defense attorney rather than by prosecutors.

Death Sentence for an Intellectually Disabled Man

The second case involves Bobby Moore, who was convicted and sentenced to death row in 1980. Moore was sentenced to death row for the murder of a 72-year old grocery clerk during a robbery in Houston. The Supreme Court will address the question of whether Moore should be considered intellectually disabled and which diagnostic standards should be applied to his case. Moore’s team of attorneys is challenging the standards used by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to determine intellectual disability.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Atkins v. Virginia in 2002, intellectually disabled individuals are ineligible for the death penalty. However, the Supreme Court did not set forth a uniform standard for determining intellectual disability and instead left this matter to the states. Texas uses a standard developed by the professional medical community in 1992 to determine intellectual disability, which has since become outdated. The Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that states should utilize modern diagnostic standards in determining intellectual disability rather than relying strictly on IQ test scores.

Contact Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer Ned Barnett

If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges, you need a skilled Houston criminal defense lawyer that will aggressively fight to protect your rights. Ned Barnett’s courtroom experience includes handling everything from misdemeanors and DWI cases to serious felonies, such as drug charges, sexual assault, robbery, and murder. He has extensive experience to draw upon and a successful track record of helping his clients achieve the best possible result for their case.

Call The Law Offices of Ned Barnett at (713) 222-6767 for a free case evaluation.