News & Politics

Playing God? Texas Jury Consulted Bible Before Sentencing Man to Death

Khristian Oliver is set to be executed next month, after jurors used Old Testament passages to determine whether he should live or die.

This post first appeared in PEEK.

Last week I wrote about Texas Governor Rick Perry's craven attempts to cover up proof that he signed off on the execution of an innocent man. Crazy, yes? But crazier than a pack of jurors who consult the Bible before deciding whether to sentence someone to death?

From Amnesty International:

Khristian Oliver, 32, is set to be killed on 5 November after jurors used Biblical passages supporting the death penalty to help them decide whether he should live or die.
Amnesty International is calling on the Texas authorities to commute Khristian Oliver's death sentence. The organization considers that the jurors' use of the Bible during their sentencing deliberations raises serious questions about their impartiality.
A U.S. federal appeals court acknowledged last year that the jurors' use of the Bible amounted to an "external influence" prohibited under the U.S. Constitution, but nonetheless upheld the death sentence.

Apparently, this "external influence" included the following passages from the Old Testament, some of which were read aloud in the jury room: 

"The murderer shall surely be put to death"

"And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, the murderer shall surely be put to death."

"The revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer."

(That last one, I assume, was determined to be logistically unfeasible.)

Liliana Segura is a staff writer and editor of AlterNet's Rights and Liberties and World Special Coverage.
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