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Top Morning Stories September 16, 2011

The U.S. Supreme Court has delayed the execution of death row inmate Duane Buck.
Photo courtesy of Andres Rueda/via Flickr
The U.S. Supreme Court has delayed the execution of death row inmate Duane Buck.

High Court Delays Texas Execution Over Racial Testimony

The U.S. Supreme Court put the brakes on the execution of Duane Buck, who was set to die in Texas last night. Buck’s lawyers argue he was sentenced to death on the basis of inflammatory testimony. Buck was given the death penalty for the murders of Debra Gardner and Kenneth Butler  in 1995. 

Whether he's guilty of that crime is not at issue. Buck's lawyers argue the sentencing phase of his trial was tainted by racially biased testimony from a witness for the prosecution. A psychologist testified Buck was more likely to be a danger in the future because he's African-American. 

"We are relieved that the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the obvious injustice of allowing a defendant's race to factor into sentencing decisions and granted a stay of execution to Duane Buck. No one should be put to death based on the color of his or her skin. We are confident that the Court will agree that our client is entitled to a fair sentencing hearing that is untainted by considerations of his race," said Kate Black, attorney for Buck, in a written statement.

Thursday's Supreme Court order delays his execution while the court considers an appeal. Lawyers had also requested a temporary stay from Governor Rick Perry.

Bastrop Bears Rise Above the Ashes 

The Bastrop High School footballteam gave their community something to cheer about last night.  The Bastrop Bears beat San Marcos 48-23. Some of the football players lost their homes in the wildfires that scorched over 34,000 acres in Bastrop County. The Austin American-Statesman'sDanny Davis reports the mood on the field was one of solidarity:

Before he scored four touchdowns on Thursday night, Trae Bunton led the Bastrop football team onto the field through a banner that read, "Out of the ashes we rise." On the back of t-shirts worn by the Bears' cheerleaders were the words "Beauty from Ashes." And the football team's theme for the night? "We're going to rebuild this town, and it starts with us Thursday night," Bastrop coach Gerald Perry explained earlier this week.  

ACL Shuts Down Some Downtown Streets

Roads are already closed in and around Zilker Park for the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Barton Springs Road is closed from Robert E. Lee to Rollingwood Drive near Mopac. Drivers can expect delays around the park and throughout downtown through Sunday. You can find more road closure information and details about shuttle buses to the festival here.

City officials are urging people not to smoke at the fest but as KUT's Nathan Bernier reported yesterday, the smoking ban may be loosely enforced.