Friday, August 15, 2008

5th Circuit Upholds Death Sentence Despite Jury's Use of Bible

In Oliver v. Quarterman, (5th Cir., Aug. 14, 2008), the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected convicted murderer Khristian Oliver's challenge to his death sentence. The court summarized the challenge and its holding as follows:
Oliver argues that the jury violated his rights under the Sixth and Eighth Amendments by considering passages from the Bible during the sentencing phase of its deliberations. Although the jury improperly consulted the Bible, the state court found that the Bible did not influence the jury’s decision. As Oliver has not presented clear and convincing evidence to rebut this factual finding, we AFFIRM the district court’s decision to deny the writ.
In concluding that the Texas state jury's use of the Bible was improper, though ultimately harmless error, the court said: "when a juror brings a Bible into the deliberations and points out to her fellow jurors specific passages that describe the very facts at issue in the case, the juror has crossed an important line." Today's Houston Chronicle reports on the decision. (See prior related posting.)