Jury Under Fire for Consulting Bible During Sentencing Deliberations

Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and attorneys with the Foundation for Moral Law argued in an amicus curiae brief filed today in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit that a Texas jury’s consultation of Bible passages during death-penalty sentencing deliberations did not taint the jury in violation of the 6th Amendment. The Foundation argued in the case, Oliver v. Quarterman, that a jury’s use of the Bible is a natural occurrence since a jury has historically reflected the diversity of the community from which it is drawn, including members who consider the Bible an integral part of their faith and morality. (Read the legal brief here.)

Judge Roy Moore, a former Alabama circuit court judge before he was Chief Justice, said about this important case:

“For centuries, the name of God and the sacredness of the Bible in the courts have traditionally served as powerful reminders of the standard of truth and justice to which judge, jury, and defendant alike are accountable. To suggest that the Bible and religious references should now be banned from jury deliberations is not only a subversion of the purpose of a citizen jury, but it reflects yet another attempt to sequester God and His law from our courtrooms and justice system.”

In the Oliver case, convicted murderer Khristian Oliver argues that his death penalty sentence should be overturned because several jury members brought Bibles and consulted a scripture verse or two in the deliberation room. Oliver argues that the mere reference to Bible passages tainted the proceedings and rendered the jury “impartial,” in violation of the 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Foundation, however, explains in its brief that juries are an essential and historic check by the people on government power and, as such, comprise a cross-section of the community. To banish the Bible, religious references, and the people that hold biblical values dear from the jury room would deprive our juries of that considerable portion of the citizenry that look to the Bible for comfort, wisdom, and moral judgment. A “Bible-free” jury would not reflect the communities of this country and would, in effect, establish a reverse religious test to qualify for jury service.

The Foundation asks the 5th Circuit court to reject Oliver’s desperate claims as constitutionally, historically, and logically baseless.

The Foundation for Moral Law is a non-profit, religious-liberties organization located in Montgomery, Alabama, dedicated to restoring the knowledge of God in law and government through litigation and education relating to moral issues and religious liberty.