Supreme Court halts Harris Co. man's execution

September 16, 2011 3:16:18 AM PDT
A Houston man on death row is alive because of a last-minute decision by the United States Supreme Court. The reason for the review by the Supreme Court is a race-related comment made during Duane Buck's trial.

Buck has spent 16 years on death row and was back there on Thursday. His execution scheduled for anytime after 6pm was halted when the Supreme Court issued a stay at 7:40pm. His reaction, according to a prison spokesman, "Praise the Lord! I feel good."

Buck's family cheered when they heard the news he would live to see another day and among the crowd was an unlikely ally -- one of his victims.

"Point blank to the chest," Phyllis Taylor said.

Taylor is Buck's sister and she was the only survivor that morning in 1995 when he shot his ex-girlfriend and another man to death in southwest Harris County. A jury convicted him of capital murder almost two years later.

Since then, he's been on death row, but on Thursday night, after he was moved to Huntsville to await the death chamber and while his family protested outside, the Supreme Court issued a stay. They will review an appeal in his case after his lawyers argued his sentence was unfair based on a Conroe psychologist's testimony that black people were more likely to commit future violence.

Taylor says she has forgiven her brother and calls the court's decision a victory.

"We just thank God for another chance," she said.

Buck's family now hopes for a new sentencing trial. Other cases based on the same psychologist's testimony have been re-tried.

State Senator Rodney Ellis said he was pleased with the decision but disappointed the federal courts had to intervene. Buck's lawyers had requested a reprieve from Gov. Rick Perry and we still haven't gotten a response from his office. It could be moths before the Supreme Court issues a final ruling.


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