Adam Ash

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Monday, March 28, 2005

Death sentence thrown out because jury consulted Bible

The Colorado Supreme Court threw out the death penalty in a rape-and-murder case because jurors had studied Bible verses such as "eye for eye, tooth for tooth'' during deliberations. On a 3-2 vote, justices ordered Robert Harlan to serve life in prison without parole for kidnapping 25-year-old cocktail waitress Rhonda Maloney in 1994 and raping her at gunpoint for two hours. The jurors in Harlan's 1995 trial sentenced him to die, but defense lawyers discovered five of them had looked up Bible verses, copied them down and talked about them while deliberating a sentence behind closed doors. The Supreme Court said that "at least one juror in this case could have been influenced by these passages to vote for the death penalty when he or she may otherwise have voted for a life sentence.'' During oral arguments before the Supreme Court, defense attorney Kathleen Lord said the jurors had gone outside the law. "They went to the Bible to find out God's position on capital punishment." Prosecutors argued that jurors should be allowed to refer to the Bible or other religious texts during deliberations.


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