Bible is improper influence on jury

Status
Not open for further replies.
#1
Im not sure what i think on this. One side of me says that the bible (or any religion) shouldnt have a place in the courtroom, but another side of me says that if their religion aids them in the way they live their lives, then why not apply that to wether they think someone is guilty?

The worst part is that depite him admiting the murder, he was left off because of the 'bibles' external influence on the case. Surely common sense should lead the judge into not scrapping the conviction, but hell, the law doesnt work to common sense does it?

A court in Colorado has overturned a death penalty for a convicted murderer after jurors consulted the Bible while deliberating on his sentence.

The state's Supreme Court ruled that the Bible constituted an "improper outside influence" and a reliance on what it called a "higher authority".

In a 3-2 vote, the judges decided that jurors must deliberate "without the aid or distraction of extraneous texts".

The court commuted the sentence on Robert Harlan, who was convicted in 1995 of raping and killing a cocktail waitress, to life imprisonment without parole.

Harlan admitted the murder.

Defence lawyers appealed against the jury's vote for the death sentence after learning that five jurors had consulted the Bible including the Leviticus verse about "eye for eye, tooth for tooth", and discussed them.

Kathleen Lord, his lawyer, told the Supreme Court last month that the jurors had gone outside the law. Prosecutors countered that jurors should be allowed to refer to the Bible or other religious texts. The US Constitution calls for a separation between church and state, and the Supreme Court noted in its ruling on Monday that the Bible and other religious texts are considered "codes of law by many" in Colorado.

It also pointed out that a jury needs to be unanimous to impose a death sentence in Colorado and "at least one juror in this case could have been influenced by these authoritative passages".

The court's two dissenting judges said the jurors had consulted Bibles not to look for facts or alternative legal interpretations, but for wisdom.
Murder conviction overturned because of bible's external influence
 
#2
The Bible would also have told them to kill homosexuals,not to eat rabbits and shellfish and not to cook baby goats in milk!
 
#3
Wacky though this decision sounds, I think the Supreme Court is right to outlaw the use of such a contentious book.

Given the level of wholesale misinterpretation of The Bible (particularly in the US), I would be deeply unsettled if a member of any jury reached for it as a method of justifying their verdict. Some of the finest minds in the game cannot agree on the exact meaning of large tracts of that text so the idea that a verdict was reached based upon a layman's very probably skewed interpretation of The Bible fills me with dread.

The fact that he was acquitted as a result does not sit so well.
 
#4
He wasn't aquitted, the sentance was changed to Life without parole.
 
#5
I stand corrected Mike.
 
#6
I cannot see what possible relevance the bible would have when considering whether a person is guilty of a crime. Their decision should be made after considering the evidence presented to them in court. What should not be of influence are personal beliefs, the media, religeous teachings or whether the defendant is a bit of all right. Only the yanks could be so daft.
 
#7
The Colorado Supreme Court was looking [at least three of the justices] for any reason to over turn the death penalty conviction.

This is a better article concerning the case:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/29/national/29bible.html

Added the whole text since it appears that the online version is subscriber based. Full credit to NY Times

DENVER, March 28 - In a sharply divided ruling, Colorado's highest court on Monday upheld a lower court's decision throwing out the sentence of a man who was given the death penalty after jurors consulted the Bible in reaching a verdict. The Bible, the court said, constituted an improper outside influence and a reliance on what the court called a "higher authority."


"The judicial system works very hard to emphasize the rarified, solemn and sequestered nature of jury deliberations," the majority said in a 3-to-2 decision by a panel of the Colorado Supreme Court. "Jurors must deliberate in that atmosphere without the aid or distraction of extraneous texts."

The ruling involved the conviction of Robert Harlan, who was found guilty in 1995 of raping and murdering a cocktail waitress near Denver. After Mr. Harlan's conviction, the judge in the case - as Colorado law requires - sent the jury off to deliberate about the death penalty with an instruction to think beyond the narrow confines of the law. Each juror, the judge told the panel, must make an "individual moral assessment," in deciding whether Mr. Harlan should live.

The jurors voted unanimously for death. The State Supreme Court's decision changes that sentence to life in prison without parole.

In the decision on Monday, the dissenting judges said the majority had confused the internal codes of right and wrong that juries are expected to possess in such weighty moral matters with the outside influences that are always to be avoided, like newspaper articles or television programs about the case. The jurors consulted Bibles, the minority said, not to look for facts or alternative legal interpretations, but for wisdom.

"The biblical passages the jurors discussed constituted either a part of the jurors' moral and religious precepts or their general knowledge, and thus were relevant to their court-sanctioned moral assessment," the minority wrote.

Legal experts said that Colorado was unusual in its language requiring jurors in capital felony cases to explicitly consult a moral compass. Most states that have restored the death penalty weave in a discussion of moral factors, lawyers said, along with the burden that jurors must decide whether aggravating factors outweigh mitigating factors in voting on execution.

"In Colorado it's a more distinct instruction," said Bob Grant, who was the prosecutor in the Harlan case. Mr. Grant said no decision had been made yet on whether to appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

Legal scholars say the connection between hard legal logic and the softer, deeper world of values is always present in jury rooms, whether acknowledged or not.

"The court says we're asking you to be moral men and women, to make a moral judgment of the right thing to do," said Thane Rosenbaum, a professor of law at Fordham University School of Law in New York City, and author of the book "The Myth of Moral Justice: Why Our Legal System Fails to Do What's Right" (HarperCollins, 2004). "But then we say the juror cheated because he brought in a book that forms the basis of his moral universe," Professor Rosenbaum said. "The thing is, he would have done it anyway, in his head."

Other legal experts say the Colorado decision touches on an issue that courts do not like to talk about: that jurors, under traditions dating to the days of English common law, can consider higher authority all they want, and can convict or acquit using whatever internal thoughts and discussions they consider appropriate.

In this instance, lawyers said, there was simply a clearer trail of evidence, with admissions by the jurors during Mr. Harlan's appeal that Bibles had been used in their discussion. One juror testified she studied Romans and Leviticus, including Leviticus 24, which includes the famous articulation of Old Testament justice: "eye for eye, tooth for tooth."

Professor Howard J. Vogel, who teaches ethics at Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and has a master's degree in theology as well as a law degree, said, "I don't think it's a religious text that's the problem here, but rather whether something is being used that trumps the law of the state."

The Bible is hardly monolithic about what constitutes justice. Some legal experts say the jurors might just as easily have found guidance that led them to vote to spare Mr. Harlan's life. Lawyers for Mr. Harlan also specifically urged the jurors to consider biblical wisdom, according to the Supreme Court's decision, with a request that they find mercy in their hearts "as God ultimately took mercy on Abraham."

The lawyers also made several references to Mr. Harlan's soul and his habit of reading the Bible with his father, the court said.

Kathleen Lord, a lawyer for Mr. Harlan, did not return repeated calls.

Mr. Harlan was convicted of kidnapping a waitress, Rhonda Maloney, and raping her. She escaped and flagged down a motorist, Jaquie Creazzo. Mr. Harlan caught up with the two women, shot Ms. Creazzo, leaving her paralyzed, then beat and killed Ms. Maloney.
Colorado law requires that jurors use a "moral compass" when determining whether the death penalty should be impossed. How much moral then consulting the bible.

More proof that the Judiciary in the US is way the feck out of control, continually legislating from the bench instead of ruling on the facts and basing their decisions on the constitutionality as written. 8O
 
#8
primroseandblue said:
I cannot see what possible relevance the bible would have when considering whether a person is guilty of a crime. Their decision should be made after considering the evidence presented to them in court. What should not be of influence are personal beliefs, the media, religeous teachings or whether the defendant is a bit of all right. Only the yanks could be so daft.
Wasn't the crime that was being decided, that had already occured, it was the penalty phase. And if you read the article above you will see that they were required to look at the morality of sentecing him to death, which appears is what they did.
 
#9
One wonders whether that juror that brought the Bible in used it as a mean to coerce the other jurors along the lines of "Look, God says kill him if you don't kill him you'll all go to Hell,". If he knew what the Bible said he had no reason to bring it in except to show it to the other jurors, which would probably count as an "outside influence - if they didn't know what it said he had no business telling them - sort of thing".
 
#10
Bladensburg said:
One wonders whether that juror that brought the Bible in used it as a mean to coerce the other jurors along the lines of "Look, God says kill him if you don't kill him you'll all go to Hell,". If he knew what the Bible said he had no reason to bring it in except to show it to the other jurors, which would probably count as an "outside influence - if they didn't know what it said he had no business telling them - sort of thing".
For a change i'm on the religious bloke's side.

If you really do belive in the whole god and his sidekick thing, and it makes a substantial part of your ethical outlook, why shouldn't you read it. On another point, even if the people in question knew the passages it may have helped them to think about what they should do.

*reads back*

If that makes any sense i'll be surprised.

Ah fucit, he's still going to rot in jail, could be worse.
 
#11
I find that the hypocrasy of the defence attorney is astounding.

The Bible is hardly monolithic about what constitutes justice. Some legal experts say the jurors might just as easily have found guidance that led them to vote to spare Mr. Harlan's life. Lawyers for Mr. Harlan also specifically urged the jurors to consider biblical wisdom, according to the Supreme Court's decision, with a request that they find mercy in their hearts "as God ultimately took mercy on Abraham."

The lawyers also made several references to Mr. Harlan's soul and his habit of reading the Bible with his father, the court said.
So the defence argues to spare him and bases it on biblical references, and introduces the fact that the accused [well convicted at this point] reads the bible. Yet, they want the death sentence overturned because the jurors actually used the Good Book in aiding a moral decision, and 3 of the Justices sided with the defence....come on this decision was not based on facts in evidence or in law but were personal agendas being spouted from the bench.
 
#12
ctauch said:
I find that the hypocrasy of the defence attorney is astounding.

The Bible is hardly monolithic about what constitutes justice. Some legal experts say the jurors might just as easily have found guidance that led them to vote to spare Mr. Harlan's life. Lawyers for Mr. Harlan also specifically urged the jurors to consider biblical wisdom, according to the Supreme Court's decision, with a request that they find mercy in their hearts "as God ultimately took mercy on Abraham."

The lawyers also made several references to Mr. Harlan's soul and his habit of reading the Bible with his father, the court said.
So the defence argues to spare him and bases it on biblical references, and introduces the fact that the accused [well convicted at this point] reads the bible. Yet, they want the death sentence overturned because the jurors actually used the Good Book in aiding a moral decision, and 3 of the Justices sided with the defence....come on this decision was not based on facts in evidence or in law but were personal agendas being spouted from the bench.
What did you expect from lawyers! :wink:
 
#14
What surprises me is that the jurors were required to decide wether the convicted should face the death penalty.

The ruling involved the conviction of Robert Harlan, who was found guilty in 1995 of raping and murdering a cocktail waitress near Denver. After Mr. Harlan's conviction, the judge in the case - as Colorado law requires - sent the jury off to deliberate about the death penalty with an instruction to think beyond the narrow confines of the law. Each juror, the judge told the panel, must make an "individual moral assessment," in deciding whether Mr. Harlan should live.

The jurors voted unanimously for death. The State Supreme Court's decision changes that sentence to life in prison without parole.
Surely this should be a judicial (law makers/interprators) decision rather than one taken by laymen (no offence meant to the jury)

It just doesn tmake sense to force that judgement on the jury. All they should be asked was wether he was guilty and then the judge applies the appropriate sentence. On top of that, is there not evidence that when the jury has the ability to dish out the death sentence, the occurence of jury intimidation (murder etc) is far higher?

just seems a bit daft to me :?
 
#15
I think jurors are supposed to base their decisions on the evidence and arguments presented to them and not find their own. As I said before I would have thought it would depend on how much the Bible-bashing juror used it to coerce the other jurors particularly given (as has been discussed elsewhere re: Koran) the dependency on interpretation and tendency to contradiction of religious texts.
 
#16
Subject: Leviticus


Laura Schlessinger is a US radio personality, who dispenses advice
to people who call in to her Radio show. On her radio show recently,
she said that,as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination,
according to Leviticus 18:22 and cannot be condoned under any circumstance.

The following response is an open letter to Dr. Laura, penned by a US resident,
which was posted on the Internet. It's funny, as well as thought-provoking.


Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have
learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with
as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual
lifestyle,for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly
states it to be an abomination. End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of
God's Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female,
provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine
claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify?
Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus
21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her
period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I
tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a
pleasing odour for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is, my neighbours.
They claim the odour is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbours who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2
clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill
him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an
abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality.
I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a
defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my
vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair
around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev 19:27.
How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me
unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different
crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two
different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse
and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble
of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev.24:10-16).
Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with
people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev.20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy
considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan,

Natalie Vassilaka
 
#17
I bet she never got a straight answer...
 
#18
While on a purely technical point the juror broke the rules by taking ANY reading material in to the Jury Room, a rule that is quite clearly stated, I do find one form of hypocracy at work.

The US (and other) legal systems base their measurement of honesty in the court room on the Bible. One doesn't swear to tell the truth over a copy of Penthouse 8O

The US and other nations have based their rule of law and indeed the legitamacy of their governments on Christian ethics. To then find fault in a jurer consulting with a text that founded the law does seem to be a lttle disengeneous.

I am most certainly not a bible thumper, I merely comment on the hypocracy at work and I am therefore, forced to agree with Ctauch on the presence of some liberal (in the political sense) interpretation of the law.
 
#19
Actually, here in the US, several death penalty cases have been overturned, because the judge imposed the death penalty. Here, you have the right to a trial "by a jury of your peers." That also includes the sentencing. Therefore, juries decide on the punishment.

What I don't like about this decision is, the crime the "man" was convicted of. He kidnaped, raped for two hours a woman, then killed her. He should be put to death, no matter how the conclusion was reached. Be it a Ouji board, Tarot Cards, etc. The crime itself should be the focal point; not the method reached in putting him to death.

What about the victim's family and friends, who would finally be able to put this behind them? Now, they have to live the rest of their lives, knowing the jerk who killed her, is alive and well. Working out, running, eating three squares a day, seeing movies, etc. That poor girl is 6 ft under.
 

shibusa2

On ROPS
On ROPs
#20
I wonder if the jurors who discussed this verse also considered the New Testament nullified this practice, Mat 5:38 - 41.

"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth'. But I tell you do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles."
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Similar threads


New Posts

Latest Threads

Top