Once again we’re traveling to a backwards land where the inhabitants don’t enjoy the separation of church and state. The bronze age denizens here consulted their terrifying holy book in deciding the fate of man accused of murder during a robbery, admittedly a heinous crime.
The brave folks at Amnesty International ventured to that benighted realm to investigate and shine the light of truth on the situation.
After the trial, evidence emerged that jurors had consulted the Bible during their sentencing deliberations. At a hearing in June 1999, four of the jurors recalled that several Bibles had been present and highlighted passages had been passed around.
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”.
The judge ruled that the jury had not acted improperly and this was upheld by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
In 2002, a Danish journalist interviewed a fifth juror. The latter said that “about 80 per cent” of the jurors had “brought scripture into the deliberation”, and that the jurors had consulted the Bible “long before we ever reached a verdict”.
He told the journalist 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.
In 2008, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that the jurors had “crossed an important line” by consulting specific passages in the Bible that described the very facts at issue in the case. This amounted to an “external influence” on the jury prohibited under the US Constitution.