The 2008 Texas Court of Criminal Appeals opinion in Lucero v. State bears the stain of bad precedent, since its holding clearly violates the constitutional rights, including First Amendment rights. The Texas court, the "supreme court" in criminal cases, that is the court of last resort in the State systeem, found no problem with a juror in a criminal case bringing to the other jurors' attention a passage in the Bible. The jury had two holdouts with ten wanting the death penalty as punishment in the case. The passage, Romans 13:1-6, contains what I would have thought decidedly prejudical language to the effect that a believer in God must nevertheless submit to the legal authority of the land (akin to "endering unto Caesar that which is Caesar's in another passage"): "[A ruler] is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring wrath to the wrongdoer...."
The foreperson of the jury read this aloud to the others and, some time later, the decision was unanimous in favor of death by lethal injection. (As barbarous as the Texas death penalty is, at least they got rid of electrocution by "Old Sparky.") To a freethinking person it is clear that the foreperson, elected by the others at the start of deliberations, was clearly a person of authority in the jury room. It is often said that jurors tend to elect as forepersons the first juror, male or female, who speaks once the bailiff exits, leaving them to deliberate. Jurors look to their foreperson as someone uniquely fit to lead discussions that could result in Perry the Ripper's signing a warrant of oblivion. I suspect that I am never selected for jury duty because I write "None" in the appropriate juror form for designation of one's "religion."
Lucero's lawyer appealed on grounds jurors had been subjected to "outside influence," which completely misses the point. Of course it was outside influence: the influence of 2000-year-old writings about mythological events with little to no basis in historical fact, so it's a bit doubtful the hold-out two were anything but Christians. On the other hand, they might have had no religion at all and merely went along with the vote of the majority because, after all, the guy did kill someone. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Were I there I would say, "Honor that law and, as Gandhi observed, all of us will wind up blind." But one cannot argue with dogma.
On appeal to a lower court, the court of appeals, the jurists affirmed the trial court's denial of a hearing on new trial, writing:
"[I]t [is] unnecessary to decide whether the jury foreman's Bible reading in this case was an 'outside influence,' because this record indicates that this brief reading of Biblical scripture, which was essentially an admonishment to follow man's law (and therefore duplicated what was in the court's charge) occurred near the beginning of jury deliberations. The affidavits [of jurors following trial] clearly indicate that the scripture had no effect on the jury's verdict rendered some hours later. We, therefore, cannot conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in declining to hold a hearing on appellant's new trial motions. For the same reason, any constitutional error that appellant may have preserved as a result of the Bible reading was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt."
Wha? Say what? This is double-speak and illogical. The Bible reading was not an outside influence because of the difference in time from when it was read until the verdict was returned? Because it was "near the beginning of deliberations" it could not have influenced the jury's decision-making. Nonsense: the passage is a clear injection of toxic Christian dogma in to deliberations; because he stood as a devoutly religious person, the foreman would be looked up to, easily guided in considerations. Every sort of pronouncement from the Bible, cloaked in authoritative garments, can be brought to bear on the gullible, the believers. It gave the State an edge that Lucero could never have overcome, just as it gave Gov. Perry a new warrant to sign.
One last note. The biblical passage clearly cannot merely duplicate what jurors are told when the court sends them out to deliberate with what is called "the Court's Charge." One is a set of instructions from a judge; the other, a command from the guy some Christians call "a Higher Judge." I am not so sure I want the Court of Criminal Appeals telling me a trial judge IS God.
It's very illogical I agree! I enjoy reading your posts James.