SCOTUSblog Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Court reopens race and death penalty issues, SCOTUSblog (Jun. 6, 2016, 1:41 PM),

In another Texas capital punishment case, the Court agreed to try again to sort out when an individual is too disabled intellectually to be sentenced to death. The Justices chose not to consider a second issue raised in that case: the constitutionality of prolonged stays on death row, especially on the theory that this treatment causes severe psychological harm. A month ago, over Justice Stephen G. Breyer’s dissent, the Court refused to hear that question in a California case. It appears that there are not four votes (the minimum number required) to grant review of that particular issue.

In the newly granted case of Buck v. Stephens, the Court gave itself the option of weighing a death sentence that may have been influenced by a racist comment by an expert who had been called to the witness stand by a defense lawyer, not by prosecutors. The expert had made similar comments in several other Texas cases, and the state had taken action to remedy those, but did not do so in the case of Duane Edward Buck of Houston.

Buck’s new appeal focused on the same legal complaint that a divided Court refused to consider five years ago: that his defense lawyer failed in his constitutional duty by calling to the stand a psychologist, who told the jury that Buck would be likely to be dangerous in the future, if not put to death, because of his race; Buck is black. The question of future dangerousness was a central issue for Texas juries in deciding for or against a death sentence.

The witness, Dr. Walter Quijano, had been summoned by Buck’s trial lawyer to testify on the dangerousness issue. He said flatly that his studies had shown that black people and males were more likely to be a danger to the public. Under questioning by Buck’s lawyer, he reviewed the findings of his report.

Buck was sentenced to death for murdering his girlfriend in front of her children, along with the murder of a man. Both crimes occurred in 1995. When Buck took an appeal to the Supreme Court in 2011, five Justices commented negatively about the witness’s comment, but three of those five said the blame lay with Buck’s lawyer for calling that witness and eliciting that testimony. Two Justices would have granted review at that time.

As Buck’s case returned to the Court this Term, it focused on whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit had raised too high a barrier before Buck could raise anew the question about Dr. Quijano’s testimony. Buck’s current lawyers have been attempting to reopen his case to raise the same racial discrimination issue. That essentially procedural question may be at the center of the Court’s coming review, but the underlying race bias claim remains in the case.

Lyle Denniston, Opinion analysis: Telltale files on race-based jury selection, SCOTUSblog (May. 23, 2016, 2:22 PM),

Opinion analysis: Telltale files on race-based jury selection

“The Supreme Court made a new effort on Monday to restrict prosecutors’ power to strike black jurors in a racially sensitive case, but the result was so tightly focused on what happened at just one trial that it was doubtful that the new ruling would do much to end the practice. What made the difference this time, it appeared, was defense lawyers’ discovery of telltale files obtained from prosecutors years after the trial was over…

The decision in Foster v. Chatman dealt with the trial practice of “peremptory strikes” of members of a jury pool — that is, striking a pool member without giving a reason to do so. Until the 1986 ruling in Batson v. Kentucky, the use of such strikes could not be challenged…”

[ An unlive live stream from The Intercept. ]

“DRONES ARE A TOOL, not a policy. The policy is assassination…”

“From his first days as commander in chief, the drone has been President Barack Obama’s weapon of choice, used by the military and the CIA to hunt down and kill the people his administration has deemed – through secretive processes, without indictment or trial – worthy of execution. There has been intense focus on the technology of remote killing, but that often serves as a surrogate for what should be a broader examination of the state’s power over life and death.”

SLATE – What “Addiction” Really Means ~ The reporting on Prince’s death reveals how much we don’t understand about chronic pain management.
By Jerrold C. Winter (Jerrold C. Winter is a professor of pharmacology and therapeutics at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences of the University at Buffalo and the author of Optimal Aging)
MAY 3 2016

” … But a rational discussion of the death of Prince—and of so many others—should not be guided by notions of “doctor-shopping,” an opioid “epidemic,” or vague images of those in pain enslaved by drugs. Instead, we should seek an understanding of the drugs of concern: how they work to relieve pain, how they kill in overdose, how deaths might be prevented, and how we should respond as a society both to their risks and to their benefits…”

“Partly owing to the stigma around painkillers, those who suffer chronic pain that is effectively treated with opiates may be reduced to “doctor shopping” in an endless quest for adequate treatment. They may find a skilled professional schooled in pain management; more likely, they will find a “scrip doctor,” an unscrupulous physician who makes his living writing opiate prescriptions. Even worse, they may be driven into the illicit market where heroin and fentanyl, a particularly dangerous opiate, are available, often for less than the cost of prescription drugs.