Supreme Court Rejects Use of ‘Racial Stereotypes’ in Death Penalty Cases

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Christina Swarns (R), the lead counsel for Duane Buck, speaks to reporters outside of the US Supreme Court on October 5, 2016 in Washington, DC. Buck has been on death row following his conviction in 1996 for the shooting deaths of his ex-girlfriend Debra Gardner and her friend Kenneth Butler in Texas. Buck was scheduled to be executed on September 15, 2011; however, the Supreme Court of the United States granted a stay of the process on the grounds that his sentencing was racially biased. Buck's lawyers will argue his case before the US Supreme Court on October 5, 2016 in order to convince the court to force Texas to grant him a new trial. (Credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The Supreme Court rejected the use of “racial stereotypes” in death penalty cases Wednesday, reopening the case of a black man in Texas who was sentenced to die after his jury was told African Americans are more likely than whites to commit crimes.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said this testimony had no place in a sentencing hearing and “appealed to the racial stereotype that black men are prone to violence.”

“Our laws punish people for what they do, not for who they are,” the chief justice said in the courtroom.

The 6-2 decision faults Texas authorities for refusing to give a new sentencing hearing to Duane Buck, a Houston man who was convicted of shooting and killing his ex-girlfriend and seriously injuring her new boyfriend in 1995.

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