So you’re being sworn in to serve on the jury and you’re asked to swear an oath, “so help me God” but the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that reference to the Bible in your deliberations is a reversable error so far as sentencing is concerned.
|::::::::||The Colorado Supreme Court (search) on Monday threw out the death penalty in a rape-and-murder case because jurors had studied Bible verses such as “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” during deliberations.
On a 3-2 vote, justices ordered Robert Harlan (search) to serve life in prison without parole for kidnapping 25-year-old cocktail waitress Rhonda Maloney in 1994, raping her at gunpoint for two hours and then fatally shooting her.
The jurors in Harlan’s 1995 trial sentenced him to die, but defense lawyers discovered five of them had looked up Bible (search) verses, copied them down and talked about them while deliberating a sentence behind closed doors.
The Supreme Court said “at least one juror in this case could have been influenced by these authoritative passages to vote for the death penalty when he or she may otherwise have voted for a life sentence.”
In other words, applying the death penalty to a man who kidnaps, repeatedly rapes, then shoots and kills a woman would be fine, so long as you weren’t doing so with reference to your religious beliefs. Never mind that your religious beliefs are quite inextricably linked with your sense of right and wrong and that they likely form part of the basis by which you’d arrive at the conclusion that the death penalty is warranted.
Add to this the clear lack of understanding on the part of the Colorado Supreme Court justices pertaining to the parts of the Bible referenced. The “eye for eye” passages in the Bible, and there are 3 in the Old Testament, were written so as to admonish care that the penalty for a crime not exceed the harm of the crime itself, not that you were required to mete out identical fates, criminal to victim. While that argument could be made for the same concept in Hammurabi’s Code, the Bible is clearly not making the same contention. Therefore, someone referring to the passages in the Bible wouldn’t get the impetus to vote for the death penalty where none existed before. They’d get a cautionary warning to be sure that this was the penalty warranted. The Justices have this one exactly wrong and they’re penalizing the citizens of Colorado, as well as simply substituting their will for the peoples’ as a result.