The Scholar: St. Mary's Law Review on Race and Social Justice


This article examines the historical use of a person’s race in the legal system, more specifically in criminal cases. Race should not determine the quality of justice an individual receives. An enlightened criminal justice system would not allow race to determine a person’s fate. However, the Texas criminal justice system allows the consideration of a person’s race in determining whether that person should receive the death penalty. In Victor Hugo Saldano v. The State of Texas, an unpublished opinion, the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals upheld the imposition of the death penalty where the jury heard an expert witness claim race as a considerable factor. This reflects a step backward to a time where a person’s skin color could determine their fate. Saldano exemplifies a disturbing trend in Texas jurisprudence. The United States Supreme Court reversed the ruling after Texas Attorney General John Cornyn admitted error. However, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals again imposed a death sentence on remand. Their failure to recognize the use of race in Mr. Saldano’s trial as fundamental error suggests the court is of the opinion his punishment proceeding was fair. Hiding behind the contemporaneous objection rule, stating the defense waived the error when they failed to object, and then telling Mr. Saldano this was not ineffective assistance of counsel does not appear very fair. Racial appeals are not just wrong based on our belief system. They are irrelevant and contrary to established legal principles which form the basis of our criminal justice system. Based on historical precedent within and outside the State of Texas, courts should not use race and ethnicity for any purpose at trial.

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The Scholar: St. Mary's Law Review on Race and Social Justice

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St. Mary's University School of Law



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