Sunday, October 18, 2009

Deep in the (Tiny, Black) Heart of Texas

What these Texas jurors lacked in moral imagination they also lacked in common sense and ability to follow simple instructions:

Before sending Khristian Oliver to his death after he was convicted of murdering his victim — who was bludgeoned with a gun barrel — jurors read passages of the Old Testament, including one that states that a killer who uses an iron object to kill “shall surely be put to death”. Oliver, 32, is due to be executed on November 5 ... During the trial, the jurors were instructed by the judge not to refer to anything that was not presented as evidence in the courtroom.
I assume, perhaps unfairly, that the Old Testament was not presented as evidence at trial, and therefore the jurors' use of it violated the judge's order. These not-very-detail-oriented jurors were, moreover, putting their attention on the Bible rather than the evidence long before sentencing:
a Danish journalist interviewed a fifth juror, who said that “about 80 per cent” of the jurors had “brought scripture into the deliberation” and that they had consulted the Bible “long before we ever reached a verdict”.
Maybe I misremember the tone and temper of the place, but the Texas I've experienced and read about is not short of rationalizations for putting people to death. Under Texas law, execution was evidently an available option in this case.

Note to jurors in Texas death penalty cases: you don't need the Bible if you want to kill people for killing people. Listen to the prosecuting attorneys, and you'll be pleasantly surprised that your state's lawmakers have provided a variety of updated barbarities. Jury duty will end soon enough, and the Bible's bloodlust will still be waiting for you back at home.

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