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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

This has to be a setup...

From CNN: Death penalty tossed because jurors discussed Bible. The Colorado Supreme Court overturned a jury's death-penalty sentence because five jurors had looked up bible verses and discussed them during the deliberation.

Now, I oppose the death penalty, and support the separation of church and state. But Christians are going to be on juries, and they'll use their interpretations of the bible, whether sensible or warped, in making their judgments. (Apparently they quoted "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," but not "Thou shalt not kill" or "Judge not" or "We forgive those who trespass against us.") That the religious arguments may have had influence on other jurors seems likely--the ignorant religious were probably happy to have it "explained" to them, while the non-believers and half-believers were probably uncomfortable arguing with the holy rollers. Still, that's really a flaw (and maybe sometimes a strength) in the whole jury system--the aggressive jurors will tend to sway the more timid ones. The Christianity of the five jurors is as much a part of them as any trait of any of the jurors. Having jurors decide cases after removing parts of who they are seems to violate the "jury of peers" idea. The Colorado Supremes have definitely opened a can of worms with this one.

Which, of course, makes me very suspicious. The Repugs get great political mileage out of these controversial court cases--the pledge of allegiance, gay marriages, and Terri Schiavo, for instance. Get the brain-addled cable-news watchers all riled up over some relatively insignificant social issue while sending their jobs and their children overseas and robbing them blind on behalf of the corporations.

Some day we'll probably find out that one or more of the Colorado Supreme Court judges was offered a deal by Karl Rove to support this ruling. His plan? Let's mobilize the base and befuddle the opposition one more time--pretty soon we'll be rid of the filibuster rule and all other obstacles to complete dictatorship.

On this case, my opinion is that juries should probably have access to any material they want except for outside stories about the current case (of course, they already have access to the court transcripts). If they want to refresh their memories about something they read in the bible or the constitution or Hamlet or Field & Stream or Hustler, the bailiff should run to the library or the adult bookstore and get it for them.