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How a Texas death penalty case got to the US Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court will look at whether the death sentence of Duane Buck, meted out in Texas, may have been tainted by jurors' considerations of race. The court stayed his execution Thursday.

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The US Supreme Court has stopped the scheduled execution of Texas inmate Duane Buck, after his lawyers said his death sentence may have been tainted by considerations of race by the jury that sent him to death row.

Mr. Buck’s lawyers sought a stay of execution from both the high court in Washington and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is a top contender for the Republican nomination for president. The Supreme Court granted its stay of execution late Thursday.

In their last-minute appeal, Buck’s lawyers argued that a psychologist improperly testified during the punishment phase of Buck’s 1997 capital murder trial that African-Americans are more likely to commit future violent crimes.

Buck is black. His lawyers argue that it is unconstitutional to use race as a factor when determining whether an individual should be sentenced to life in prison or death.

“We are relieved that the US Supreme Court recognized the obvious injustice of allowing a defendant’s race to factor into sentencing decisions and granted a stay of execution,” said Katherine Black, one of Buck’s lawyers with the Texas Defender Service, in a statement.

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