Duane Buck’s death penalty case raises a pressing issue of national importance: whether and to what extent the criminal justice system tolerates racial bias and discrimination. Specifically, did the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit impose an improper and unduly burdensome Certificate of Appealability (COA) standard that contravenes this Court’s precedent and deepens two circuit splits when it denied Mr. Buck a COA on his motion to reopen the judgment and obtain merits review of his claim that his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective for knowingly presenting an “expert” who testified that Mr. Buck was more likely to be dangerous in the future because he is Black, where future dangerousness was both a prerequisite for a death sentence and the central issue at sentencing?
DECISIONDecided February 22, 2017 HOLDING
The Fifth Circuit exceeded the limited scope of the COA analysis. Buck has demonstrated ineffective assistance of counsel under Strickland. The District Court’s denial of Buck’s Rule 60(b)(6) motion was an abuse of discretion.
ROBERTS, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which KENNEDY, GINSBURG, BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which ALITO, J., joined.
ORAL ARGUMENTArgued October 5, 2016
CERTIORARI STAGEGranted June 6, 2016
Certiorari Stage Documents
Petition for Certiorari (pdf download)
Brief in Opposition (pdf download)
Petitioner's Reply (pdf download)
Other Certiorari Stage Documents
Amicus Brief of Mark L Earley, et al supporting Petition for Certiorari (pdf download)
United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Decided August 20, 2015
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