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Texas death-row inmate gets last-minute reprieve

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Supreme Court blocks Texas execution
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Buck eats what might have been his final meal when he learned of the stay
  • He says, "God's mercy triumphs over judgment, and I feel good," an official says
  • The U.S. Supreme Court issued a temporary stay of his execution for two killings
  • Texas' Pardons and Paroles board recommended against clemency on Tuesday

Dallas (CNN) -- The U.S. Supreme Court has delayed the scheduled execution on an inmate on death row in Texas amid questions about a psychologist who testified that blacks and Hispanics were more likely to commit future crimes.

Duane Edward Buck already had eaten a final meal of fried chicken, fried fish, french fries, salad, jalapeno peppers and apples when news came of the court's decision on Thursday evening, Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark said.

"Praise the Lord Jesus," Clark quoted the condemned man as saying. "God is worthy to be praised. God's mercy triumphs over judgment, and I feel good."

Buck had been set to die by lethal injection, but the court delayed the execution to give it time to review the way a lower court handled the case. While that happens, Buck remains on death row.

Buck was convicted of the 1995 killings of Debra Gardner and Kenneth Butler. According to Texas officials, Buck shot Gardner in front of her daughter, who begged for her mother's life.

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A third person, Phyllis Taylor, was shot, but she sought clemency for Buck this week. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, however, recommended against granting Buck clemency

Buck's attorney, Katherine C. Black, said the recommendation, "fails to recognize what the highest legal officer in the state of Texas has acknowledged: No one should be executed based on a process tainted by considerations of race."

Black is referring to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, who was the state's attorney general in 2000, when he spoke of seven death row inmates, including Buck. Cornyn said he believed the inmates had been unfairly sentenced to death based on testimony that was racially tainted by psychologist Walter Quijano, who repeatedly told juries that black or Hispanic defendants were more likely to commit future crimes.

Because of that testimony, six of those seven inmates were granted resentencing trials. Buck, who is black, was not among them.

"We want to make sure people aren't executed based on the color of their skin," Black said.

On Monday, Linda Geffin, a former Harris County assistant district attorney who prosecuted Buck, joined Taylor in calling for Buck's execution to be stopped.

CNN's Nick Valencia contributed to this report.

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