The United States, with its mixed record on the death penalty, is about to take a closer look at the issue this fall with two cases before the Supreme Court and three referendums on state ballots in the November election.
In the two death penalty cases before the court, both from Texas, one examines information given to jurors while the other questions whether the state properly measured intellectual capability of the accused.
“The Supreme Court cases this fall are addressing the brokenness of the judicial system,” said Karen Clifton, executive director of the Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Death Penalty.
She said these cases “address the most troubling aspect of the death penalty, which is disproportionately used on vulnerable populations.”
Buck v. Stephens will be argued before the court today, 5th October, two days into its new term. It reviews the 1995 sentencing of Duane Buck, who was given the death penalty for the 1995 murders of his ex-girlfriend and another man.
Buck’s guilt or innocence is not at stake; called into question is whether he was given a fair sentence. That’s because during the punishment phase of his trial, the witness statement of a psychologist, called forth by the defense, said that because Buck is black, there was a stronger likelihood that he would present a danger to society.
Picture: A member of the Abolition Action Committee hangs a sign in front of the Supreme Court in Washington during a 2008 vigil to abolish the death penalty. (CNS photo/Shawn Thew, EPA).