Over fifteen years ago, I survived a tragic shooting in which I lost a dear friend. I now find myself pleading to spare the life of another beloved friend – Duane Buck, the person responsible for nearly taking my life. Duane is scheduled to be put to death in Texas in a matter of days despite appeals to stop his execution by me and another unlikely supporter – a prosecutor from his trial.
From the moment the crime happened, Duane has been deeply remorseful and taken full responsibility for the suffering he caused. Anyone who knows Duane understands that he was not himself on that terrible day in July 1995 when, under the influence of drugs and alcohol, he shot me and Debra Gardner and Kenneth Butler, who tragically did not survive.
Duane has been like a brother to me since well before the crime occurred. We spoke right after I was released from the hospital following the shooting. Duane expressed profound sorrow and disbelief at his actions. My Christian faith has taught me to forgive even the most horrible transgressions, and so I did just that. I forgave Duane that very day.
Last week in Austin, Texas, I shared my story of forgiveness with Governor Rick Perry’s legal counsel. I asked Governor Perry to listen to my call for mercy and halt Duane’s September 15 execution. Duane must be held accountable, but he does not need to be executed for justice to be served.
While in prison, Duane has been a model prisoner who has not had one single disciplinary problem. He has spent his days reflecting, atoning, and deepening his faith in God.
Turning to God has also helped me deal with my own grief – grief that will only be worsened if Duane’s execution goes forward. My faith teaches me that we must love one another and honor all life. I hope that Governor Perry, himself a man of faith, follows these lessons and stops the cycle of violence from continuing.
Duane’s execution would be particularly unjust because Duane’s race played a role in why he was sentenced to death. The prosecution presented evidence to the jury that Duane would be a future danger because he is African-American. Indeed, Duane’s trial prosecutor also recently appealed to Governor Perry to halt the execution to ensure that Duane receives a fair sentence.
I thank God that I am able to share Duane’s story and plead on his behalf. I pray that Governor Perry acts with the compassion that faith calls us to and that he spares Duane’s life.