27 Evangelical leaders call for a new fair sentencing hearing for death row prisoner Duane Buck

By Marc Hyden Dear District Attorney Anderson, We are 27 Evangelical Christians from across Texas and the United States, and we write to respectfully request that you support a new, fair sentencing hearing for death row prisoner Duane Buck. Although opinions on the death penalty vary within each of our churches, we are strongly united in our view that no death sentence should be a product of racial discrimination, as it was in Mr. Buck’s case. In June 2000, the Office of the Texas Attorney General identified six prisoners with death sentences it believed to be unconstitutional. In each of these cases, the prosecution relied on testimony from a psychologist linking race to future dangerousness in order to secure the death penalty. Mr. Buck’s case was one of those identified by the Attorney General. In recognition of the fact that these death sentences were based on false and offensive racially biased stereotypes and that they thereby undermined the integrity of Texas’ criminal justice system, then-Attorney General John Cornyn assured Texans that his office would do everything that was necessary to ensure that no such unfair death sentences were carried out. While Texas upheld that promise in five of the six cases, it has reneged on its promise to Mr. Buck. Duane Buck inexplicably remains the only one of the six individuals identified by the Texas Attorney General who remains under a sentence of death. As Evangelical Christians, we are disturbed by the impact of racial bias on our justice system. We are all created in the image of God, and race should never blind us to that fundamental truth in our interactions with others. Racial discrimination in any form is incompatible with Christ’s message in the Gospels – it should have no room in our hearts or in our justice system. In addition to our concerns over racial bias in this case, we are moved by the way Christ has worked in Mr. Buck’s life and set in motion the process of redemption during his time in prison. His faith is now central to his life: he is not only committed to his own daily prayer and scripture reading, he has also led his fellow prisoners in a Bible study group he created called Christian Brothers. And, he has facilitated more peaceful relationships between prisoners and guards. Over the course of 15 years, Mr. Buck has not received a single disciplinary write-up while incarcerated. He also has ministered to other prisoners and served as a role model to them. Most importantly, Mr. Buck has taken responsibility for the tragic deaths of Debra Gardner and Kenneth Butler and expressed deep remorse for these crimes. Keeping Texas’ promise in Mr. Buck’s case would send a clear message that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office does not condone racial discrimination in the courtroom. We humbly call upon you and your office to allow Mr. Buck the new sentencing hearing free of racial bias that he was rightly promised. Thank you for your kind consideration. In Christ, Texas Pastors Paul Basden Pastor of Preston Trail Community Church, Frisco, TX Alan Bean Friends of Justice, Arlington, TX Jimmy Dorrell Executive Director of Mission Waco, Pastor of Church Under the Bridge, Waco, TX Robert Hunt Director of Global Theological Education, Professor of Christian Mission and Interreligious Relations, and Director of the Center for Evangelism and Missional Church Studies, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX Jim Johnson Pastor of Preston Trail Community Church, Frisco, TX Weylin Lee Pastor of Vox Veniae, Austin, TX Roger Olson Foy Valentine Professor of Christian Theology and Ethics at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Waco, TX Chris Seay Pastor of Ecclesia Houston, Houston, TX Stephen Sprinkle Director of Field Education and Supervised Ministry, Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, TX National Leaders Paul Alexander Co-president of Evangelicals for Social Action, Wayne, PA Samuel Atchison President, Trenton Ecumenical Area Ministry, Trenton, NJ Debbie Blue Executive Minister, Department of Compassion, Mercy, and Justice for the Evangelical Covenant Church, Chicago, IL Noel Castellanos Chief Executive Officer, Christian Community Development Association, Chicago, IL Hector Chiesa President, Radio Vision Cristiana Shane Claiborne The Simple Way, Philadelphia, PA Dave Gibbons Pastor of Newsong Church, Irvine, CA David Gushee Director of the Center for Theology and Public Life and Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics, Mercer University, Atlanta, GA Fisher Humphreys Professor of Divinity, Emeritus, Samfurd University, Birmingham, AL Joel Hunter Pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed, Longwood, FL Lynne Hybels Co-founder of Willow Creek Community Church, South Barrington, IL Brian McLaren Christian author and theologian, Ocala, FL John Phelan Former President and Dean of North Park Theological Seminary, Chicago, IL Raymond Rivera Founder and President, Latino Pastoral Action Center, Bronx, NY Gabriel Salguero President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition, New York, NY Jay Sekulow Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, Washington, D.C. Jim Wallis Founder of Sojourners, Washington, DC Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove Associate Minister of St. Johns Missionary Baptist Church, Durham, NC

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