Sunday, October 18, 2009

All the Answers are in The Bible ran a fascinating story about a Texas jury that consulted the Bible before rendering a verdict of death.

Death-row foes are complaining that a Texas jury ordered to consider only evidence presented in court consulted the Old Testament before condemning a man to death. Jurors examined highlighted passages in Bibles passed around the jury room to help them decide the fate of Khristian Oliver. The con killed a man by shooting him in the face and beating him with a rifle. One of the passages stated that a person who smites somebody with iron "shall surely be put to death."

The use of the Bible made the trial a "travesty," charged an Amnesty International official. "Religious texts provide consolation and spiritual guidance for billions of people the world over, but this use of the Bible to decide life or death in a capital trial is deeply, deeply troubling," she told the Telegraph. The Supreme Court has refused to hear Oliver's appeal and he is due to be executed early next month.

This is even worse that the usual Texas Justice we hear about. Usually it's simply that letter-of-the-law, excessively harsh, vigilante justice, you know that one that says, "Let's give 'em a fair trial and then take 'em out and hang 'em." But this is something else again.

Here's a Guardian article with more details about the case.

What's your opinion? Even for Christian jurors, is this kind of thing acceptable? Isn't this the very thing jurors are screened for before being admitted to participate in the trial?

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.


  1. "Let's give 'em a fair trial and then take 'em out and hang 'em."

    Kinda makes ya wonder why we like due process so much, huh?

    But due process is so inconvienent to the Brady Bunch, isn't it?

  2. They didn't consult the Bible in determining his guilt, only if they should kill him or not. If the death penalty is a moral issue like most of those that oppose it claim, then what is wrong with moral guidance from religious sources? Had they consulted the Torah or the Koran they would have found similar passages.

  3. Christians, pro-life until week 40, then all bets are off.

  4. I am not sure what effect the reading of a Biblical passage had on the fair trial of this man. If the passage had been Christ's prayer from the cross to forgive them for they knew not what they did - would there be the same complaint? I am sure that having read the passage in Latin, Hebrew or Greek would have been more interesting.

  5. FWM, I hear what you're saying, but the instructions were to base their decision on the evidence. There are guidelines for determining the severity of the sentence and referring to that Old Testament stuff is not part of them.

  6. MikeB,

    This penalty phase has nothing to do with evidence. The evidence part was done when he was found guilty. The penalty phase is where they decide life or death and war the religious discussions took place.

    I would hate to see the day when juries are so numb that they will decide whether or not to put someone to death without any moral thought or weight into their decision.

    Are you really wanting the death penalty to be decided by evidence only? If so, why do we need a jury after they have found the accused guilty? Should the death penalty be automatically applied if evidence equals x or circumstances equals y?

    I for one would want every juror to weigh such a decision with their conscience.

  7. FWM, Please don't tell us you approve of referring to a biblical passage like, "a person who smites somebody with iron "shall surely be put to death."

    What then do we do with all the other even more absurd Old Testament instructions?

    C'mon, this is the 21st century. And besides there are evidentiary elements in determining this type of sentence. If the murder takes place during the commission of another felony, for example, if the victim is a cop, even though I don't like that one, it is commonly used.

  8. FWM, you are wrong in your understanding of a penalty phase. Evidence and argument are presented to the jury. The state bears a burden of proof. And just like in the guilt phase, the jury is instructed not to consider anything outside of what is presented to them in court. If jurors will so willingly disregard that instruction, why should we trust that they followed any of their other instructions?

  9. Another most disturbing but often missed aspect to this unfortunate case is that the two brothers who got 5 year and 10 year sentences for their part in the crime were coached extensively by their lawyer to have stories that matched about Khristian being the one who actually did the killing. Both are free now, and Khristian is facing death. Hardly seems fair. The young woman who was sitting in the car and played no role in the killing got 99 years. Where is the justice in this?

  10. Anonymous, There seems to be no justice in this case.

    Thanks for you comment.