Judge accused of making racial comments in speech at U of Penn

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And she said a death sentence provides a service to capital-case defendants because they are likely to make peace with God only just before their execution, according to the complaint.

Naranjo said the coalition is demanding an investigation. She said it took months for those who heard Jones’ comments to contact lawyers and verify that they could warrant a formal complaint. It also took time to compile the affidavits, she said.

The coalition said Jones’ comments resembled those made during the trial of Duane Buck, a black Texan sentenced to death in 1997 for the murder of his former girlfriend and another man.

At Buck’s trial, a state psychologist listed race as one of several factors in describing the danger he would continue to pose. Though the psychologist was called to the stand by defense lawyers, a prosecutor emphasized the testimony in her closing argument.

Later, then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn identified the case as among six in which race had played an inappropriate role in death sentences. The other inmates all received new sentencing hearings, and they’ve been resentenced to death. Buck hasn’t received a new hearing.

“Judge Jones’s comments are frighteningly similar to those that violated Duane Buck’s constitutional rights,” said Christina Swarns, one of Buck’s lawyers and director of the Criminal Justice Project of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund.

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