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Quote of the Day - It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it's the parts that I do understand. - Mark Twain
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Does The Bible Have A Place In The Courtroom?

You may have quoted the language yourself:  "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth."  Frequently, when I've quoted that language to my mother, as a minister's wife she responds with, "turn the other cheek."  It's the difference between the Old and the New Testaments.

But does that language belong in the jury room during death penalty deliberations a capital murder case

The Ninth Circuit sees no problem.  Although it's improper for a prosecutor or a defense lawyer to quote biblical verses in closing argument or during the case, the Court thinks that bible sayings are such a part of everyone's common experience, that it's not Constitutionally defective to discuss them during deliberations.  And discuss them they did.

In the case of Stevie Fields, the jury foreman brought into the jury room during the death penalty deliberations notes that referred to an "eye for an eye" and "he who lives by the sword shall die by the sword" for the death penalty, and "no real deterrent value - mostly because murderers are not normal" against the death penalty.  Both deterrence and punishment are generally accepted reasons for the penalty.

Did the verses have an effect?  Fields' defense lawyer claims the jury was 7-5 in favor of life without the possibility of parole, and then after the verses were brought in, the vote switched in favor of the death penalty. 

You can read the specifics of Fields' 1978 "one-man crime wave" here, and reach your own conclusion. 

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Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, December 09, 2005 at 11:30 Comments Closed (1) |
 
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