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February 04, 2005

The law and the Bible

On Feb. 12, 1994, Robert Harlan kidnapped 25-year-old casino, cocktail waitress Rhonda Maloney and raping her at gunpoint for two hours. Rhonda Maloney slipped away from Harlan and flagged down Jacquie Creazzo, a passing motorist. They were on their way to a police station when Harlan chased them down and  fired at the vehicle, hitting Jacquie Creazzo in the back. When the car came to a stop, the Harlan pulled Maloney from the car and left. Her body was found a week later under a bridge. She died of dozens of heavy blows, and two gunshot wounds. Creazzo remains paralyzed from the chest down.

At the time Harlan was 29 years old, the son of a police detective and had been convicted of 3 sex-related offenses, and (after the Maloney incident) became the prime suspect in the beating death of a co-worker at US West in 1988.

In 1995 Harlan was convicted and sentenced to death based on Jacquie Creazzo's testimony.

But...

...while determining the “life or death” decision during the sentencing hearing, several of the jurors consulted a Bible. They read from verses like, Romans 13: 1, which says, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God.” They also read from Leviticus 24: 20, which says, “fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has caused disfigurement of a man, so it shall be done to him.”

Presiding Judge John Vigil ruled that to be unacceptable. “If any case merits the death penalty, there cannot be serious debate about this case being that case,” Vigil wrote, “The death penalty, however, must be imposed in a constitutional manner… Jury resort to biblical code has no place in a constitutional death penalty proceeding.” As a result, the death sentence was tossed out.

Yesterday prosecutors argued before the Colorado State Supreme Court that the sentence should stand.

Adams County prosecutor Steven Bernard asked the justices to restore the death sentence, saying jurors should be allowed to refer to the Bible or other religious texts. He said a juror's religious beliefs aren't prejudicial or extraneous to a trial, prompting sharp questions from some of the justices.

"Don't we have a duty to make sure the death penalty isn't imposed under religious passion or prejudice?" Justice Gregory Hobbs asked.

Hobbs also asked whether the verses the jurors referred to were part of Colorado law.

"Passion and prejudice is not, but morality is," Bernard responded.

Besides the atrocity of overturning the death sentence of a slimewad that desperately needs to be killed, the precedence of declaring the Bible contrary to American law would be very bad. It would be one more step toward officially declaring Christians second class citizens.

Hat tip: World Mag Blog

Posted by Jack Lewis at February 4, 2005 09:30 AM

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