Texas has two executions slated this week

Sept. 12, 2011 at 9:23 PM
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AUSTIN, Texas, Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Texas is to execute two inmates this week, including one who now has a prosecutor trying to get the sentence stayed because of racially tinged testimony.

Linda Geffin, among the prosecutors in the 1997 trial of Duane Buck and now a supervisor in the Harris County attorney's office, said she now agrees with his attorneys, who argued the sentencing hearing was unfair because of the testimony, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Buck, who is black, was among seven death-row inmates who then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn said in 2000 had been unfairly sentenced to death because of improper racial testimony.

Six of the inmates were again given the death penalty after receiving new sentencing trials but Buck, who is scheduled to be executed Thursday for a 1995 Harris County double murder, was not afforded a re-sentencing.

Cornyn, who now serves in the U.S. Senate, said the seven cases had been tainted by the testimony of psychologist Walter Quijano, who repeatedly told juries defendants were more likely to commit future crimes because they were black or Hispanic. The American-Statesman said his testimony was meant to inform jurors in death-penalty cases on whether a defendant would likely be a future threat to society.

"The attorney general was right when he said that 'it is inappropriate to allow race to be considered as a factor in our criminal justice system,'" Geffin wrote in a letter to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and other officials.

"It is regrettable that any race-based considerations were placed before Mr. Buck's jury. No individual should be executed without being afforded a fair trial, untainted by considerations of race."

In the other death-penalty case, Steven Woods, 31, is to die Tuesday for the deaths of a man and a woman who had their throats slashed and had been shot repeatedly near a Denton County golf course in 2002, the Forth Worth Star-Telegram reported.

Unless the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes, Woods is to be executed by lethal injection in Huntsville for the killings of Ronald Whitehead, 21, and Bethena Brosz, 19. It would be the 10th execution this year in Texas.

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