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

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“No one should be put to death based on the color of his or her skin,” she said. “We are confident that the court will agree that our client is entitled to a fair sentencing hearing that is untainted by considerations of his race.”

In granting the stay late Thursday, the high court said it would halt the execution at least long enough for the submission and consideration of legal briefs. If the court denies Buck’s petition, the stay would end automatically and Texas would again be free to proceed with a scheduled execution, the order says.

It adds that if the court agrees to hear the case, the stay would remain in effect until the court issues its final judgment.

On Wednesday, a panel of the Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the same argument in Buck’s appeal to that court. The panel said that Buck’s latest appeal “fails to demonstrate a substantial showing of the deprivation of a constitutional right."

Buck was convicted of the double murder of his former girlfriend, Debra Gardner, and Kenneth Butler in July 1995. Ms. Gardner and Buck had broken up a week earlier. After an argument, Buck returned to Gardner’s house with a shotgun and rifle. Gardner’s two children watched Buck kill their mother.

In addition to the two victims, Buck’s stepsister, Phyllis Taylor, was also at the house. He pressed the muzzle of the rifle to her chest and pulled the trigger. She fell to the floor but survived.

Ms. Taylor has since forgiven Buck and has joined efforts to block his execution.

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