RACE: New Study Shows Racial Bias in Seeking the Death Penalty in Harris County

A new study regarding the use of the death penalty in Harris County, Texas, was released in conjunction with the filing of an appeal by Harris County death row inmate, Duane Buck. The research was conducted by Professor Raymond Paternoster of the University of Maryland, who examined over 500 murder cases in the county. The study found that, in cases with circumstances similar to Buck’s and during the time in which he was tried, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office sought the death penalty 3.5 times more often when the defendant was African-American than when the defendant was white. When the cases were submitted to Harris County (Houston) juries, the net result was a greater proportion of African-American defendants ended with death sentences than white defendants. Buck's case is also controversial because an expert witness testified at Buck's trial that he was more likely to pose a future danger to society because he is African American, and hence more likely to commit violence. Read full study.

(L. Akinwole Bandele, "Racism and the Death Penalty: New Evidence," Ebony, March 13, 2013).  See Race and Studies. See additional studies about racial bias in Harris county.