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Inmate Duane Buck's lawyers ask Gov. Rick Perry for halt to Texas execution

Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Duane Buck Inmate Duane Buck's lawyers ask Gov. Rick Perry for halt to Texas execution

(CBS/AP) HUNTSVILLE, Texas - Lawyers for Duane Buck, who is scheduled to be put to death in Texas on Thursday, are asking Gov. Rick Perry to halt the execution amid questions about the role race played in the sentencing.

Buck's case is one of six convictions that the state's then-top attorney reviewed in 2000 and said needed to be reopened because of the racially-charged statements made during the sentencing phase of the trial. A psychologist told jurors that black criminals were more likely to pose a future danger to the public if they are released.

Perry is an ardent supporter of capital punishment. During his 11 years in office, 235 convicted killers have been put to death in Texas. His office says he has chosen to halt just four executions, including one for a woman who was later put to death.

If courts continue to reject Buck's appeals, only Perry could delay the lethal injection by invoking his authority to issue a one-time, 30-day reprieve for further review. Perry's actions are being closely watched, particularly by death penalty opponents, after he said during a presidential debate that he has never been troubled by any of the executions he has overseen as governor.

In the five other cases Cornyn said needed to be reopened, prosecutors repeated the sentencing hearings and the defendants were again sentenced to death. Prosecutors contend Buck's case was different from those and that the racial reference was a small part of a larger testimony about the prison population.

Buck, 48, was convicted of gunning down ex-girlfriend Debra Gardner, 32, and Kenneth Butler, 33, outside Houston in July, 30, 1995, a week after Buck and Gardner broke up. Although Buck's guilt is not being questioned, his lawyers say the jury was unfairly influenced and that he should receive a new sentencing hearing.

Meanwhile Buck's stepsister, Phyllis Taylor, also was wounded in the shooting. However, she has since forgiven Buck and sought for his death sentence to be commuted to life in prison.

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