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Bible in Court??

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
I guess you can swear on it but God forbid you consult it!!

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/29/national/29bible.html
post #2 of 18
Beat me to it Anna.

Here's a local news channel story: http://9news.com/acm_news.aspx?OSGNA...7-c589c01ca7bf

It's not that the jurors are not allowed to discuss moral ramifications. It is that the juror instructions implicitly say that jurors are not allowed to bring in any outside materials to assist in their deliberations. The case could have been thrown out if they had brought in a dictionary or thesaurus rather than a Bible. It wasn't what was brought it, it was that anything was brought in. Technicality, to be sure, but it does go against the instruction of the court.
post #3 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by annabelle33
I guess you can swear on it but God forbid you consult it!!

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/29/national/29bible.html

You know, I'm almost certain that you don't swear on a bible in court anymore, and haven't for quite some time (although I know there is a process by which you can have your lawyer put in a request that you can swear on a bible when you go up, if you want). Plus, when you swear to tell the truth you don't do it "so help you God" you do it "under the pains and penalties of perjury".
post #4 of 18
I don't get it. How can you not look to your religion for guidence in things like that.
post #5 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by eburgess
I don't get it. How can you not look to your religion for guidence in things like that.
It's not that they looked to their respective faiths to help in their decision. If they had just discussed it from memory, it most likely would not have been an issue (of course you can't say for sure, because that wasn't the case ). It was that they brought in an outside resource into the deliberation room. It doesn't matter what that resource was...it could have been a dictionary, a printout of something found on the internet, The Communist Manifesto, or a Bible.

There's a lot of talk about this on the radio today, and a lot of legal experts are explaining it and commenting on it.
post #6 of 18
It operates on the same basis as to why juries cannot watch TV on news of the case or call their friends to ask them about their opinion.

As stated in the article, another cause of this issue is the way the statute is drafted and the requirement to look for moral guidance. Basically the legislation is trying to convey a certain message but does not really know how to put it across.

One example the is confused approach to the definition of Beyond Reasonable Doubt. You have a significant amount of states (15??) that requires the judge to define Beyond Reasonable Doubt and you have another 10 or so states that provide that if the judge attempts to provide a definition of Beyond Reasonable Doubt it is automatic grounds for reversing the conviction. The same split personality also occurs at Federal level.

I would guess that perhaps the requirement of "individual moral assessment" may have come from the time where some judges demand that before a conviction one must be "morally certain" but in recent Supreme Court decision the court unanimously rejected such a position. Thus I would guess that the individual moral assessment is something extra that legislation feel is necessary especially in capital cases where the punishment is severe to say the least. But the problem is how do you put it in words. As I am sure for those of you who support capital punishment, you may (or not) feel that it should be used sparingly or in exceptional circumstance. But how do you put that in words that is definite and conveys with certainty that something special or extra.

PS: Least I forgot to say. This is one reason why I do not support jury trials and feel that perhaps it may be time to abolish it. But that is another story for another day.
post #7 of 18
I am a HUGE HUGE proponent of the separation of church and state (this coming from someone who is, yes, a Methodist) . We have a Superior Court judge here in Savannah who is also a preacher . Don't TELL me that has not influenced his decisions ; I always cringe when a client of mine is put on his docket.
Anyway, with the issue at hand, no, a Bible, Communist Manifesto, dictionary, etc. etc. should NOT be allowed in deliberation because they have nothing to do with the case at hand. Juries are to deliberate ONLY on what has been presented during the trial. That being said, regardless of whether or not they had consulted a Bible, what jury in their right mind wouldn't sentence that scumbag you-know-what to death?!?!?!
post #8 of 18
I can't help but personalize this as a lesbian. If I were on trial, I would not want to have jurors consulting the Bible, since you can construe just about anything you want from its passages. Some people on that jury might want to hang me from the nearest tree.
post #9 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Obi
You know, I'm almost certain that you don't swear on a bible in court anymore, and haven't for quite some time (although I know there is a process by which you can have your lawyer put in a request that you can swear on a bible when you go up, if you want). Plus, when you swear to tell the truth you don't do it "so help you God" you do it "under the pains and penalties of perjury".
I think you're right, Obi.
Besides, there are an awful lot of non-Christians in the country. What would be the point in asking a Buddist to swear on the bible or an agnostic to say "so help me god"?

The point is they brought outside material into their deliberations, as others have pointed out already.

I must wonder...
Would we be having this debate if it had been something else that caused the sentence to be tossed?
post #10 of 18
The point is, I as a juror would bring my intrinsic values with me, whether I brought anything into the courtroom or not. Isn't that why jurors are questioned beforehand? To see what their values might be? For example, the prosecutor would want a person who had no trouble applying the death penalty, if he believed the defendent worthy of that punishment.

You can take the literal Bible away from a Christian as a juror, but if the values of the Bible are inside that person, they will come out at deliberation. The same goes for an atheist, or a person of any persuasion. We are what we are.
post #11 of 18
I believe that a juror was removed from another high-profile case, because he brought a dictionary into court. My middle-aged brain cells just won't remember WHICH case it was. The rules say NO outside materials.
post #12 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrsd
The point is, I as a juror would bring my intrinsic values with me, whether I brought anything into the courtroom or not. Isn't that why jurors are questioned beforehand? To see what their values might be? For example, the prosecutor would want a person who had no trouble applying the death penalty, if he believed the defendent worthy of that punishment.

You can take the literal Bible away from a Christian as a juror, but if the values of the Bible are inside that person, they will come out at deliberation. The same goes for an atheist, or a person of any persuasion. We are what we are.
Sure, that's true. However the issue isn't the values the person already had, but the fact that the person went home, wrote down specific Bible verses with citations, and then brought them into the court for discussion with the rest of the jury. The fact that the materials were from the Bible was not the issue. It could have been a tape of CSI, an excerpt from an encyclopedia or whatever, and the same rule would apply. You can't bring in any materials other than what resides in your head.
post #13 of 18
I understand that, Obi, and I have no problem with it. But some people have tons of quotes memorized and/or scriptures. Are those wrong if a person voices them in a jury deliberation? For example, if I know the definition of 'revenge' from Webster, am I allowed to share it with the jurors?

I don't have a lot of definitions, or famous quotes, or even scriptures memorized, but I'm wondering (since we're on the subject) what would happen in a case if a juror did say any of those things? Would it cause a mistrial? I've never served on a jury, and I'm not educated on legal proceedings.

Thanks,
mrsd
post #14 of 18
My understanding is that if it's in your head, you can express it. So, if I have a quote from something memorized, I can bring it up. However, I commute on a train with several lawyers, and I'll get their thoughts on this tomorrow morning. Because I'm thinking that while what's in your head is OK, I'm also thinking that it would be against the rules to try to sway the opinions of fellow jury members based on information not presented as part of the trial, whether that was info you'd memorized or had brought in. So in that case, if someone said that the Bible says "an eye for an eye", and that's why we should give him/her the death penalty, or "i saw this CSI episode and THEY said . ." would that be grounds for a problem . . .? I hereby declare that I will find out! Ha ha!! I have a mission! Do I get theme music?
post #15 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Obi
...I hereby declare that I will find out! Ha ha!! I have a mission! Do I get theme music?
You get theme music and a for making your fellow board member happy. I love it when my questions are answered.
post #16 of 18
I'll have to get more info tonight, 'cause I missed the lawyers I know on the train this morning. But here is the Federal Court guidance on the subject:

2. Extrinsic Material During Deliberations

The jury’s exposure to extrinsic material will only warrant a new trial “if there existed a reasonable possibility that the extrinsic material could have affected the verdict.†United States v. Plunk, 153 F.3d 1011, 1024 (9th Cir. 1998) (quoting Marino v. Vasquez, 812 F.2d 499, 504 (9th Cir. 1987)). Courts evaluate “five separate factors to determine the probability of prejudice: (1) whether the extrinsic material was actually received, and if so, how; (2) the length of time it was available to the jury; (3) the extent to which the jury discussed and considered it; (4) whether the extrinsic material was introduced before a verdict was reached, and if so, at what point in the deliberations it was introduced; and (5) any other matters which may bear on the issue of the reasonable possibility of whether the introduction of extrinsic material affected the verdict.†Plunk, 153 F.3d at 1024-25 (internal quotation marks omitted).
post #17 of 18
OK, I spoke with two different lawyers. It does not matter if you had the CSI tapes with you or if you simply quote them from memory. Any verdict rendered must be based only on the law and the evidence presented. While your innate value system is obviously based on outside material, and while you can share those values with fellow jurors to explain your stance, you cannot use any extrinsic materials to render a verdict. While some personal bias (not meaning the word in a negative sense) is unavoidable, you need to be as objective as you can. For instance, if I have strong moral objections to the use of the death penalty, I cannot argue fellow jurors out of applying it in a case before us based on any outside info (even though my own stance may be unavoidably influenced this way). I can only argue my point based on info that was presented at trial (but his mom said he liked fuzzy bears . . . surely he's not beyond hope of recovery!!!).
post #18 of 18
Thanks, Obi.
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