Most important, in adjudicating a claim of actual ineffectiveness of counsel, a court should keep in mind that the principles we have stated do not establish mechanical rules. . . . the ultimate focus of inquiry must be on the fundamental fairness of the proceeding[.]Id. at 696 (O’Connor, J.). So, emphasizing that mere “mechanical” rigidity must not defeat “fundamental fairness” in Buck’s case may be crucial. (O'Connor was not being “quirky” per se in Strickland, but she recognized that reality has quirks or unusual points that may not be justly treated by using needlessly rigid procedures.) E.g., there may be overly-rigid arguments for denying Buck relief, such as the argument that of eleven facts Buck put forward to show how extraordinary his case is, see, e.g., Blue Br. at 47, and achieve relief under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6), none of the facts individually is enough to show “extraordinariness”. But what about the holistic aggregation of all 11 facts together? Could that gestalt prove extraordinariness? It well may. Similarly, a realistic consideration of the bizarreness of the case as a whole (absurd racism, broken promises by the Texas Attorney General’s office, etc.) should preclude any overly mechanistic application of rules, see Strickland at 696, that might prevent relief for Buck. IV. Conclusion: Texas’ Case May Be on Death Row—Which Is Good for the United States Then again, petitioner Buck may not have as hard a struggle as one might imagine. Buck has six amicus briefs on his side at the merits stage—including one by the present author—; interestingly, Texas has zero amicus briefs on its side. This says a lot of what needs to be said about the legitimacy of Texas’ case. It is, and should be, a pretty hard row to hoe to defend executing someone using absurd ““evidence”” that “blackness equals violence”. On that note, it’s somewhat odd that the U.S. Department of Justice is nowhere to be seen in this case, this case of flagrant racialized abuse of someone in the criminal justice system. Some activists claim the Obama administration hasn’t done enough for black people, and they might be able to adduce the DOJ’s mysterious absence from the Buck case as evidence. One hopes that in similar cases in the future, the federal government might take notice and act. That’s especially so because there’s an important national interest besides racial justice inside the U.S.: i.e., the foreign-policy implications of the case. If Buck is executed because he is black, then how can we complain when other nations execute people under suspicious circumstances? such as religiously-tinged executions like those in Saudi Arabia? “A decent respect to the opinions of [hu]mankind”, as the Declaration of Independence put it, not just respect for ourselves, would seem to support Petitioner’s case here. Cf. John Donne, “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” After all, America is famed throughout the world for having nothing against quirks and the freedom to be quirky; but there are good quirks, and there are bad quirks. And refusing legal relief to Duane Buck is the deadly and unjust kind of quirk that America, and the rest of the world, can’t afford.
(Cross-posted, with edits, from Casetext)