Death Sentence Overturned Because Jury Used Bible

Discussion in 'ten-forward' started by Smokey, May 25, 2003.

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  1. Smokey

    Smokey Registered Member

    Apr 1, 2002
    Annie's Pub
    "Death Sentence Overturned Because Jury Used Bible"

    A judge overturned a convicted murderer's death sentence because jurors consulted Biblical passages such as an "eye for an eye" during death-penalty deliberations.
    Robert Harlan was convicted and sentenced to death in 1995 for the murder of Rhonda Maloney, a waitress who was driving home from work when Harlan forced her car off the road.

    Harlan also shot and paralyzed good Samaritan Jaquie Creazzo who tried to come to the woman's aid.

    While noting that Harlan's crimes "were among the most grievous, heinous and reprehensible" he had seen in 18 years on the bench, Adams County District Judge John J. Vigil said Friday that court officials failed to properly sequester the jury.

    Jury members stayed in a hotel during deliberations and court officials made sure newspapers were not delivered to their rooms, but the jurors did find bibles in the rooms.

    "The jury supervision performed in this case was extremely negligent and appallingly lax," Vigil wrote in his ruling. "Jury resort to biblical code has no place in a constitutional death penalty proceeding."

    Vigil has not yet set a date for Harlan's resentencing.

    "We respectively disagree and will appeal," Adams County assistant district attorney Steve Bernard said. He also said the record was not clear about whether a bible was brought into the jury room.

    In a five-day hearing last month, Harlan's attorneys argued that several jurors consulted biblical scripture during jury deliberations, particularly two Old Testament passages from Leviticus that read, "fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, as he has caused disfigurement of a man, so shall it be done to him." And, "whoever kills an animal shall restore it, but whoever kills a man shall be put to death."

    Prosecutors had argued that the sequestration order applied to news media coverage and that jurors should be allowed to draw upon their personal moral code including the Bible while rendering a verdict.

    Source: Reuters, Denver
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