Our Brother’s Keeper


– [Woman] My grandmother
every Saturday morning, we had to go to the farmers market. We had to shuffle peas. We go to the farm to get
a trunkload of chickens. – [Marvin] Come on, give me some love. – You asleep? – No, I was working. What’s up? – Hey. – You alright? – I’m good. – Alright, alright. Staying out of trouble, huh? – Yes, sir. – Alright, alright. Trouble is easy to get into
and hard to get out of. – [Woman] Ooh, baby. And we got spaghetti for dinner. Honey, this is just the tip
of the iceberg of pictures. I still have tons and tons of pictures. – [Marvin] That was Duane. My oldest brother. Right here. (laughs) Right there. Wow. Some old pictures, them. That’s me, Duane. Lord have mercy. – [Woman] Out of all my
stepsisters and brothers, Duane and I was the closest. – [Monique] Duane had always
been a loving, compassionate brother, you know, had always
been that type of person. So, it was a big shock, you know. I remember my parents
had went to Louisiana for the weekend, and all my siblings and
everybody was at the house. We had just got through eating dinner. And I think the breaking
news came on at 5:00. We heard Duane Buck. To me it was unbelievable
because we had just, you know, he had just left the house. – When I heard about it
it really kinda I guess, like, wow, tears start
streaming down my face. I couldn’t believe it. – [Monique] You know that’s your brother. See the police putting him in handcuffs. But you never think it would
be one of your family members. I picked up the phone, I said, Mom, y’all need to come home. – [Black] July 30, 1995. Duane came to his ex-girlfriend
Debra Gardner’s home with a shotgun, apparently very high. He found other gentlemen, as well as his stepsister
Phyllis, at the apartment. Some sort of verbal altercation ensued, and he shot Phyllis. Shot the gentleman who was there. And shot Debra Gardner, his ex-girlfriend. – [Phyllis] I saw the door fly open. And Duane walked up to me
and stood in front of me, and placed a gun in my chest. I reminded him of the good that him and I shared in life. And just trying to talk down the gun. He didn’t look like himself. He looked like somebody
I’ve never seen before, and he pulled the trigger. – We had eyewitnesses, and very compelling eyewitnesses. It didn’t take long for a
guilty verdict to come back. – The state has to prove that the person who’s been convicted of capital murder is likely to commit crimes in the future in order to get the death penalty. So this becomes a pivotal
part of the sentencing phase of a trial. – [Black] At punishment,
the defense introduced this witness, Dr. Walter Quijano. Dr. Quijano testified
that Mr. Buck wouldn’t be a future danger. However, on cross
examination he made a comment about Mr. Buck’s race. The prosecution said, isn’t it true that Mr. Buck’s race
makes him more dangerous? And the answer was yes. – You just had an expert literally saying, people who are black are more dangerous. There was no attempt to clean up or pretty the racial discrimination in this case. Unfortunately that bias and
that burden that is placed on people of color who come through the criminal justice system
is disturbingly common. – [Black] Years go by
and ineffective lawyer after ineffective lawyer waived claims regarding the racial
testimony in this case. And this is how we end up
15 years later litigating for Mr. Buck’s life. – State of Texas wants to
tell you it’s the right result that he was sentenced to death, but they did it the wrong way. Even though it was very
clear from the outset that Duane had committed this crime, that he was guilty, racist conclusions have no place in the
criminal justice system. You were this leader at a time when a lot of people might have been not so willing to speak out on behalf of a death-row inmate. – If we’re gonna have the
death penalty in America it ought not be reserved
for people who are poor. And you know, a lot of
times with these issues somebody’s income is determining whether or not they gonna
get the death penalty. – [Kase] That’s true. – Oftentimes the person who is picked by the court, by the judge
to represent a poor person in cases like this is
someone who does not get the adequate resources to defend the case. Criminal justice is clearly
the new civil rights. But the inherent racism and unfairness in the criminal justice system is really a national embarrassment. And Texas is ground zero
for that embarrassment. This is the historic fifth
ward in Houston, Texas. It’s a place where you have
a lot of abandoned homes and a neighborhood with a lot of weeded lots. Problem in terms of burglaries, crime, schools are declining. It’s also a place where
a disproportionate number of the young people unfortunately end up getting trapped in the
criminal justice system. It’s also a place where
people feel as though they’ve profiled and been neglected. We have one of the highest
incarceration rates in the country. Disproportionate number
of those people are black. A disproportionate number
of them are low income. – [Marvin] Ever since we were little, me and my brother, we
always working on cars. Body work, mechanic work. And Duane was my role model. Before he started getting
on the drugs and all that he was always there with us. Always we could call on our big brother at any given time. But the drugs take you to a place where it don’t even be you. Our house was the house
that everybody came to. We built it up and we
tried to help the people and we did mechanic work here. And my mom, she cooked. If you was hungry, you could
come get something to eat. It’s still here, so every time I pass by there’s a bunch of memories
go through my head. But good memories. You know, it was good memories,
and a few bad memories, but most of all we came
together as a family, and worked through our difficulties. – Deciding whether or not
someone’s going to receive a life sentence, the jury
considers whether or not there’s mitigating evidence, which is, is there evidence that warrants a life sentence over a death sentence? Is there anything that
gives you pause as a juror? Duane’s life was
something that the defense never explored in terms of mitigation. – He had a very traumatic life history. When you can present a
picture of a human being that shows that they’re unique and flawed, that influences juries
to impose life sentences. And so that should have been prevented, but unfortunately for Mr. Buck it was not. – There really wasn’t much discussion of how his drug use affected him before the jury. Duane would not be the only guy in Texas who faced a death
sentence after using “fry,” which is marijuana dipped in formaldehyde. The drug was thought to
cause psychotic effects. – My heart breaks because of the drug that was used in the crime. The fry. It is aggressive. – You try it one time and you get hooked. With everything going on right now with the Black Lives
Matter and stuff like that, I think Duane’s case is just
a way to heal the wounds and try to make it better. So we got to just look
forward and work diligently to try to get Duane the
fairness of a new trial and everything from beginning, like it should have been in ’95. I remember when Duane actually
got the execution date. Kate called me, because we
talk at least once a week, and she said, Monique,
I want to let you know that Duane got an execution date. And it’s gonna be September 15, 2011. – Someone called me to ask
if I would like to witness the execution. And if I would like to
be on the victims’ side. And I said no. I didn’t wanna be on the victims’ side. I wanted to be on the family’s side. It was the hardest thing of my life to forgive someone that
tried to take my life. But I know who he is. – [Black] We were still
litigating Duane’s case on the day of his execution. Around 3:00 p.m. I drove up to Huntsville, which is where the executions take place, and I went to see him and to tell him. We still haven’t yet heard, but I want you to prepare
yourself for the fact that we might not win. – When it got close we
talked to Duane on the phone around five-ish, and
we prayed and we prayed and we prayed. – Even though we don’t live
in slavery days anymore, a lot of injustices that
took place back then are still taking place now. And I just, you know, in his trial, I want it to be a fair trial. I don’t want race to
even be an involvement. He’s expressed remorse
for the things he’s done. – For 20-plus years
Duane been on death row, he never ever had one
incident with anybody, whether it’s an inmate, a guard. And this is coming from the warden, the major and the lieutenant. – Even being able to talk to Duane a couple of hours before
he was to be executed, I’m saying to myself,
well, I’m the preacher. I’m the one that should be preaching. Duane’s not the preacher but he was preaching to me. – I think it was five or
ten minutes before 6:00, Kate called me on the
phone, she said, Monique, we got good news. We got a stay of execution. Yeah. – I never witnessed anything like that. – [Kase] I remember when we got the stay. We were thrilled. But how were we gonna keep Duane alive if the Supreme Court dissolved the stay? We started to discuss a strategy. We realized that we had to talk seriously to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. – [Swarns] When the case
was pending there in the Supreme Court they
reached out to me and the LDF to see whether we would join them in defending Mr. Buck
from that point forward. Once we really learned about the egregious racial discrimination that Mr. Buck faced we immediately jumped at the opportunity to help Mr. Buck fight for his life. This case really is
above and beyond the pale with respect to seeing
someone facing execution because of the color of their skin. – I remember Kate coming into my office and saying, you’re not gonna believe this, but the prosecutor in this case is willing to come forward
and say, “This was wrong.” And that Duane deserves a
new fair sentencing trial. – I read what was posted
by the Texas Defenders on Duane Buck’s case. And when I saw it in black and white, as opposed to being in
the hustle and bustle of the trial, it just took
me back and I thought, that is Constitutional error. – She decided that it was in fact her role as a lawyer, as a human
being, as a member of the bar, to correct a wrong. – The jury heard things that not only are racist,
they’re factually incorrect. We made a mistake. The system made a mistake. And I have been on board ever since. – So we have a date, October 5th. It’ll be 30 minutes for each side. – If the court were to somehow tie, that would uphold the
decision of the 5th Circuit, which is not a favorable decision. So there are risks. – You know, should we be
lucky enough to get this before a jury again, I
think that he would be sentenced to life. – Our obligation is to get him this new fair sentencing trial. And we’re gonna get there. We are going to get there. (soft piano music) – [Man] We’ll hear argument next today in case 15-8049, Buck vs. Davis. Miss Swarns? – [Swarns] Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the court, Duane Buck was condemned to death after his own court-appointed
trial attorneys knowingly introduced an expert opinion that he was more likely
to commit criminal acts of violence in the future
because he is black. Justice Alito today said that introducing this evidence in Mr. Buck’s
capital sentencing hearing is indefensible. Texas has acknowledged
that it has no interest in a death sentence, like
no state has an interest in a death sentence that’s
contaminated by racial bias. We hope that the Supreme
Court with this decision makes clear that the lower courts cannot turn a blind eye to explicit
racial discrimination of this kind. And recognizes that those kind of errors must be addressed. – [Woman] I’m honored to be
able to go to the Supreme Court as the voice for someone
to give fair justice. – How confident are you
that the Supreme Court will rule in his favor? – I’m praying it does. No matter who you are, what color you are, we all deserve a fair justice system, and I’m just grateful to God. – When you do death penalty work you’re confronted with all the ways that the system is grossly unfair. It’s unfair to people who are poor. It’s unfair to people of color. – [Black] This case is just an example of the kinds of problems
that we’re seeing every day. – [Swarns] This is just one. He’s a really big example,
but he’s just one. And there are lots more behind him. (soft music) – I wanna lift those
who are incarcerated… Today. (applause) If you know somebody who’s incarcerated, gonna ask you to come to the altar now. It may be your son, it
may be your daughter, it may be your brother. It may be your father. It may be your mother. But I want them to be
lifted to the Lord today. There’s a young man by
the name of Duane Buck. Who’s on death row. This family has fought this thing all over and it’s now in the hands
of the Supreme Court. Mr. Marvin Buck, if he would come. And pray… For those who are incarcerated. (applause) – Right now, God, they
are behind prison bars, each and every day, God. So we lift up every family member, God. We lift up Duane Buck
before you right now, God. We lift up the Supreme
Court right now, God. This thing is bigger than us. We got to get to the root of the problem to solve the problem. – Everybody, we’re just coming together as one unit, and we know our sole purpose is to make sure Duane gets
the fairness that he deserves. – Hey, baby. – How ya doing? (crosstalk) – [Monique] This is Duane’s lawyer. – Oh, it is. – When I say my gift from God, this is the woman I’m
talking about, right here. – We all know the crime was committed. But no one deserves to be punished according to their race. (mid tempo piano music) (mid tempo music)

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