Texas Execution Looms After Jury Consult Bible

According to Amnesty International USA, the state of Texas is set to execute someone after the jury consulted the bible during deliberations in deciding in favor of execution.

From the story:

One juror had read aloud from the Bible to a group of fellow jurors, including the passage, "And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death".
[A] judge ruled that the jury had not acted improperly and this was upheld by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.


Amnesty International is asking that the death penalty be put aside. Khristian Oliver, 32, is set to be killed on 5 November.

Again, from the story:

One juror interview later said that "he believed 'the Bible is truth from page 1 to the last page,' and that if civil law and biblical law were in conflict, the latter should prevail. He said that if he had been told he could not consult the Bible, 'I would have left the courtroom.' He described himself as a death penalty supporter, saying life imprisonment was a 'burden' on the taxpayer."

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the case.

Isn't America great! The land of justice for all!

Views: 3

Tags: amnesty international, bible, death penalty, jury, texas

Comment by Shine on October 14, 2009 at 10:41pm
Wow. Just wow. Even after living here for over two years, Texas still continues to amaze me. It's not just like another country, it's like a whole other world. How could reading the Christian bible in a courtroom possibly seem appropriate to anyone?
Comment by Nix Manes on October 14, 2009 at 11:04pm
What this case brings to mind for me is an extremely bad contradiction that is extremely troubling. As most people familiar with court proceedings know, the jury is not allowed to have access to either the federal or state constitutions during deliberations. Judges often give instructions that include admonishments against jurors using their own personal knowedge of the law. (Read this case for an example.)

A person who openly uses their own knowledge of the highest laws of the land--and the most simple in a lot of cases--is either disqualified or thrown off the jury. They must use the language put out there by the judge, not the actual law. (Does this ring a bell with anyone?)

However, if this case is true, using the bible is just fine. Even if they only had a bible in the room and never opened it, it should have been declared a mistrial. If anyone mentioned the bible at all--mistrial. It would have been an immediate mistrail with no questions asked if someone had pulled out a copy of the constitution during deliberations, right? Using actual laws that are in effect, and pretty simple to understand, actually, can't be used. But the bible? Sure. Pull whatever bullshit you want out of there and throw it in the mix. What a load of crap!
Comment by Ashli Axtell on October 14, 2009 at 11:34pm
I am awestruck.

There are times when I've read that the US Supreme Court refuses to take cases based on their political hot-potato-ness, but this is ridiculous. They need to take that case. Since they've already refused it, I suppose no amount of amicus curiae briefs citing a lot of stuff those Justices already know would help now.

Whether or not that man actually murdered someone, sentencing him to death because of something written in the damn bible is completely and totally ludicrous. Going into a rant about separation of church and state here is just telling people what they already know, but sheesh.

I suppose the idea behind having jurors use language put out by the judge is that the judges themselves will be impartial to personal bias and will uphold the laws faithfully.

Using the Bible is totally ludicrous. We are not, and should never be, judged by the laws of some imaginary, pie-in-the-sky god. That's just fuckin' bullshit. There's no other way to describe it. I am so enraged right now.
Comment by Reggie on October 15, 2009 at 12:03am
I read about this earlier in the week. It made me sad.
Comment by Galen on October 15, 2009 at 12:41am
I agree with Jen here. Even though I am personally in favor of the death penalty, I am most definately NOT in favor of "death by bible." The Bible has no place in a court of law, period.
Comment by Joann Brady on October 15, 2009 at 7:51am
It boggles the mind how the bible thumpers pick and choose which bits of the bible they want to use, yet claim it is all infallible. They insist that god hates gay people, but on the same page in Leviticus there are all sorts of other absurd decrees ( such as stoning to death unruly teenagers) that they realize are ridiculous. They say that Jesus was the end all sacrifice, nd thus replaced the rather elaborate system of animal sacrifice for sins that was laid out (also in Leviticus I think) but they go back & pluck this death penalty thing out of there. They don't even realize how stupid and nonsensical it all is
Comment by Scott A. Hunt on October 15, 2009 at 9:08am
Every day I'm more happy that I left Texas. Too bad I didn't do it sooner.
Comment by Shine on October 15, 2009 at 11:51am
The issue (at least the issue as seen by the legal world) is not whether the jury used the Bible here but whether they applied the laws of the state of Texas.

This frightens me. So is it essentially irrelevant what source law is applied so long as it aligns with the applicable state law? Jury selection seems rather pointless, then, if the only measure of the validity of their decisions is whether or not they conform to the existing state constitution. Why not just have a judge read the pertinent passage of the state constitution outloud in courtroom and decide cases accordingly?

I wonder if a copy of the Texas constitution was also present at the deliberation. If not, would the absence of a record of state law in the presence of a record of religious law yield a sufficient probability that the decision was based on the latter? (I don't really know how relevant "probability" is in the realm of law even if this is the case.) Or, again, is this irrelevant so long as it happens to be condoned by the state law?
Comment by Reggie on October 15, 2009 at 12:13pm
Jury selection seems rather pointless, then, if the only measure of the validity of their decisions is whether or not they conform to the existing state constitution. Why not just have a judge read the pertinent passage of the state constitution outloud in courtroom and decide cases accordingly?

I've only served on a jury once, but it was a strange experience because certain facts were kept from us that would have most definitely influenced our decisions and made rendering a verdict much easier along with any awarded damage recommendations.

Our instructions were to use only the information used in the trial and to apply it to the law. The instructions from the judge were very strict, but the jurors were quite free to ignore these instructions. I found it frightening that many of my fellow jurors simply wanted to vote and leave as this civic duty was an inconvenience to them. Talk about scary.

But, maybe our legal experts (we have at least two!) on the site can expound on jury instructions and the reasons for them?
Comment by Monika on October 15, 2009 at 12:30pm
If they would make prisoners work and use that money they earn to put into society they would not be a burden to society. We all have to work for a living on the outside world and they get free room and board while we have homeless people. Its a screwed up system, but then what do I know.

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