Sunday, November 20, 2011


"We share Sen. Whitmire's exasperation that TYC officials approved contracts with a psychologist whose race-related court statements have triggered legal controversies as long ago as 2000. Then-Texas Attorney General and current U.S. Sen. John Cornyn denounced Quijano's testimony for improperly injecting race into numerous criminal justice proceedings."



BACKGROUND: Duane Buck was convicted of murder in 1997. He is African American. At the sentencing phase of his trial, an expert witness named Walter Quijano said “yes” when asked if “the race factor, black,” increased the chances that Mr. Buck would do something dangerous again. In Texas, this is a pivotal issue: if the state does not prove “future dangerousness” beyond a reasonable doubt, it cannot sentence a convict to death. The prosecution got the answer it wanted. The jury sentenced Mr. Buck to death. In 2000, John Cornyn, then the attorney general of Texas and now a U.S. Senator, called for six death row inmates in the state to have new hearings because race was improperly used as a factor in sentencing each of them. “It is inappropriate to allow race to be considered as a factor in our criminal justice system,” he said. Mr. Buck was the only one of the six who did not get a new hearing. Mr. Cornyn’s successor as attorney general treated Mr. Buck’s case differently because Mr. Buck, “not the state, offered” the testimony in which race figured prominently. Justice Alito agreed. It was Mr. Buck’s lawyer, he wrote, who elicited “the race-related testimony on direct examination.” That is accurate, and a majority of Supreme Court justices found this logic convincing, but it is also misleading. As Justice Sotomayor explained (and I’m lifting from her written dissent here), during the penalty phase of Mr. Buck’s trial, the defense called a psychologist, Walter Quijano, as a witness. Mr. Quijano testified that there were several “statistical factors we know to predict future dangerous­ness,” including past crimes, age, sex, race, socioeconomic status, employment stability, and substance abuse history. Mr. Quijano also said: “It’s a sad commentary that minori­ties, Hispanics and black people, are over represented in the Criminal Justice System.” But when the defense asked Mr. Quijano whether Mr. Buck was likely to commit violent criminal acts if he were sentenced to life imprisonment, Mr. Quijano replied, “The probability of that happening in prison would be low.” Only during cross-examination did the fact of Mr. Buck’s race truly become linked with the possibility that he would commit another crime. After inquiring about how past crimes and age might (statistically) indicate future dan­gerousness in Mr. Buck’s case, the prosecutor said: “You have determined that the sex factor, that a male is more violent than a female because that’s just the way it is, and that the race factor, black, increases the future dangerousness for various complicated reasons; is that correct?” Mr. Quijano answered, “Yes.” Later, the prosecutor argued to the jury that Mr. Quijano “told you that there was a probability that [Buck] would commit future acts of violence.” The jury returned a verdict of death. Lincoln Caplan: New York Times); (The Supreme Court issued a stay of execution but, in a decision issued in November, 2011 declined to order a new hearing.)



"Psychologist Walter Quijano has become notorious for testifying as a prosecution witness in Texas capital murder trials that black defendants are more likely to commit future violence than other ethnic groups. Now it turns out that he has also been on the payroll of the Texas Youth Commission for years, evaluating youthful offenders at TYC facilities in East Texas," the Texas Tribune editorial begins, under the heading, "Texas youth commission made a bad hire."

"State Sen. John Whitmire, the Houston Democrat who chairs the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, says he was tipped off by members of the justice advocacy group Texas Appleseed that Quijano worked for the TYC. Whitmire, who has led the fight to reform the scandal-plagued Texas juvenile justice system, says Quijano's views on race should disqualify him from working with troubled youth," the story continues.

""If someone had not brought that to my eyes, I would not have known that at this point in time they're still using this guy," said Whitmire. He wonders how TYC officials missed the controversy that erupted two months ago over Quijano's racially tinged testimony in convict Duane Buck's trial. It led the U.S. Supreme Court to temporarily stay Buck's execution before rejecting his appeal.

"Where were the director and administrators of TYC," asked Whitmire, when the agency "was using a known prejudiced person when 34 percent of TYC's population is African American?"

He fired off a letter to TYC Executive Director Cheryln K. Townsend on October 28, demanding that Quijano have no further contact with TYC youth, that his contract be terminated, and that the cases of all children he worked with be reviewed. Three days later, Townsend responded that she shared Whitmire's concerns and agreed Quijano's "extremely inflammatory statements in multiple adult offender death row cases during the sentencing phase reflect a prejudicial or racial perspective that is totally unacceptable." TYC officials immediately sent Quijano a 30-day notice of termination of his contract.

TYC records show that Quijano had been employed by the agency since 2005 and was on a current contract for services not to exceed $20,000, though he had done no work since June. He provided sex offender counseling as well as learning disability and special education evaluations. According to Townsend, he did not take part in TYC decisions determining any youth's length of stay, program completion, transfer or discharge.

Nonetheless, Townsend ordered a complete review of his cases "to determine the appropriateness of his counseling and to ensure that no youth has been negatively impacted by his bias."

We share Sen. Whitmire's exasperation that TYC officials approved contracts with a psychologist whose race-related court statements have triggered legal controversies as long ago as 2000. Then-Texas Attorney General and current U.S. Sen. John Cornyn denounced Quijano's testimony for improperly injecting race into numerous criminal justice proceedings.

In addition to severing her agency's ties to Quijano permanently, Townsend should determine who recommended his hiring after his prejudicial views were well known and kept renewing his contracts."

The story can be found at:

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:

Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at:

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;;