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 TX jurors consult Bible deciding death penalty
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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 10/14/2009 :  16:17:36  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
This is just creepy.

A Texas man who faces execution after jurors at his trial consulted the Bible when deliberating his fate should have his death sentence commuted, Amnesty International said on Friday.

Khristian Oliver, 32, is set to be killed on 5 November after jurors used Biblical passages supporting the death penalty to help them decide whether he should live or die.



http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?id=ENGNAU2009100913472

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

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The Rat
SFN Regular

Canada
1342 Posts

Posted - 10/14/2009 :  16:58:29   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit The Rat's Homepage Send The Rat a Private Message  Reply with Quote
This is so fucking obscene I can't even post a coherent response. This is one of those times that I really wish there was a Hell that they could be confined to. Fuck 'em all.

Bailey's second law; There is no relationship between the three virtues of intelligence, education, and wisdom.

You fiend! Never have I encountered such corrupt and foul-minded perversity! Have you ever considered a career in the Church? - The Bishop of Bath and Wells, Blackadder II

Baculum's page: http://www.bebo.com/Profile.jsp?MemberId=3947338590
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Paulos23
Skeptic Friend

USA
446 Posts

Posted - 10/15/2009 :  06:51:10   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Paulos23's Homepage Send Paulos23 a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Clearly the sentence should be reexamined.

You can go wrong by being too skeptical as readily as by being too trusting. -- Robert A. Heinlein

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. -- Aldous Huxley
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Maverick
Skeptic Friend

Sweden
385 Posts

Posted - 10/15/2009 :  07:21:40   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Maverick a Private Message  Reply with Quote
This is so wrong it's almost unreal.

"Life is but a momentary glimpse of the wonder of this astonishing universe, and it is sad to see so many dreaming it away on spiritual fantasy." -- Carl Sagan
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 10/15/2009 :  10:33:05   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The link does not work for me.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 10/15/2009 :  15:48:56   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Texans seem to have become so god-crazy, they can no longer be trusted to do their duty under the law as jurors. Maybe they never were trustworthy. There seems to be some limit to religious fanaticism. When this limit is passed, common sense and public duty seem to break down completely. A complete retrial is in order, at the least. As well, hopefully, as reconsideration of Texas' admittance to the United States.

Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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The Rat
SFN Regular

Canada
1342 Posts

Posted - 10/15/2009 :  15:55:24   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit The Rat's Homepage Send The Rat a Private Message  Reply with Quote
If I were running a country I would make it illegal to have religious texts of any kind in a courtroom unless it was a piece of evidence. Why do we allow people to swear on a bible, isn't their own honour good enough?

Bailey's second law; There is no relationship between the three virtues of intelligence, education, and wisdom.

You fiend! Never have I encountered such corrupt and foul-minded perversity! Have you ever considered a career in the Church? - The Bishop of Bath and Wells, Blackadder II

Baculum's page: http://www.bebo.com/Profile.jsp?MemberId=3947338590
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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 10/15/2009 :  17:38:33   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I had hoped this post might yield more complex discussion, so I guess I'll play a little devil's advocate since my reaction, while that of disgust, was definitely not as strong as that of some of you who have responded.

The question of a guilty or innocent verdict is beside the point in this case since the jurors were consulting the Bible about what the punishment for the crime should be. This is at least worth mentioning. It would be much more scary of people were using religious scriptures to decide if the accused is guilty or not.

As to the question of whether to give the death penalty or not, after a person is convicted of a crime where the death penalty is one possible punishment, it becomes a pretty subjective matter whether or not to give it and why. The more I contemplate this case, the more I realize that my real disgust is with the death penalty itself - which I think should be abolished. The state should not be allowed to execute people who are already incarcerated - and I have a stack of reasons why I hold this opinion, although that's not the point being discussed in this thread, so I'll move on.

Many people who support the death penalty do so for purely emotional reasons. Something in the human heart feels great gratification at the thought of revenge - tit for tat. Is that a better reason to kill someone than because the Bible calls for it as an appropriate punishment? Both are equally subjective and not based on reason or what is actually best for society.

Consider the wisdom of having juries in the first place. Here we have "peers", but those peers are screened for a whole slew of biases (even though everyone has biases, no matter how hard you screen, nobody is objective.) The whole idea of a jury of peers who are unbiased is ridiculous. 80% of the country (roughly) is Christian. To some degree, particularly on matters of life and death, these people are going to be influenced by scriptures and religious leaders and personal religious beliefs whether they discus it openly with the other jurors or not. However, so long as they are looking at actual evidence and the abiding by the letter of the law to determine the verdict and then selecting a punishment which coincides legally with that verdict, do their personal motivations really matter?


"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 10/15/2009 :  17:41:50   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Here's another link to the story if the link isn't working: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/6338320/Texas-man-faces-execution-after-jurors-consult-Bible-to-decide-fate.html

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

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perrodetokio
Skeptic Friend

275 Posts

Posted - 10/15/2009 :  18:44:40   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send perrodetokio a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I believe both things are wrong (my opinion): The death penalty AND consulting the bible to see if someone deserves it.

Advocates of the death penalty do have stronger arguments in favor of it. I might not agree with those arguments but they are a lot more rational and logic than the case of checking the bible. If you have the death penalty, at least dispense it with as much care as possible.

Cheers!

"Yes I have a belief in a creator/God but do not know that he exists." Bill Scott

"They are still mosquitoes! They did not turn into whales or lizards or anything else. They are still mosquitoes!..." Bill Scott

"We should have millions of missing links or transition fossils showing a fish turning into a philosopher..." Bill Scott
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Machi4velli
SFN Regular

USA
854 Posts

Posted - 10/16/2009 :  00:23:31   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Machi4velli a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by marfknox

As to the question of whether to give the death penalty or not, after a person is convicted of a crime where the death penalty is one possible punishment, it becomes a pretty subjective matter whether or not to give it and why.


Are there really any guidelines for deciding this, or just rules like "the death penalty is an option for a person convicted of crime x"?

There are definitely many supporters of the death penalty for non-emotional reasons as well -- some think it saves money or would save money if implemented differently, some think it fits into some conception of justice, some think it deters crime (each position has critics, but people still think it's true). These are pretty common and more or less non-emotional.

"Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people."
-Giordano Bruno

"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge."
-Stephen Hawking

"Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable"
-Albert Camus
Edited by - Machi4velli on 10/16/2009 00:40:39
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Ricky
SFN Die Hard

USA
4907 Posts

Posted - 10/16/2009 :  13:59:36   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Ricky an AOL message Send Ricky a Private Message  Reply with Quote
However, so long as they are looking at actual evidence and the abiding by the letter of the law to determine the verdict and then selecting a punishment which coincides legally with that verdict, do their personal motivations really matter?


Emphasis mine. If I had instead passed around a book written by a right wing think tank which had sections on the death penalty, would it be any different? If you are considering the Bible to be a source of personal motivation, then why wouldn't any other book be one as well?

Also, it seems as if some jurors should have never been there in the first place:

He told the journalist he believed "the Bible is truth from page 1 to the last page", and that if civil law and biblical law were in conflict, the latter should prevail.

Why continue? Because we must. Because we have the call. Because it is nobler to fight for rationality without winning than to give up in the face of continued defeats. Because whatever true progress humanity makes is through the rationality of the occasional individual and because any one individual we may win for the cause may do more for humanity than a hundred thousand who hug their superstitions to their breast.
- Isaac Asimov
Edited by - Ricky on 10/16/2009 14:00:03
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Dr. Mabuse
Septic Fiend

Sweden
9677 Posts

Posted - 10/17/2009 :  15:23:32   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Dr. Mabuse an ICQ Message Send Dr. Mabuse a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by marfknox

I had hoped this post might yield more complex discussion, so I guess I'll play a little devil's advocate since my reaction, while that of disgust, was definitely not as strong as that of some of you who have responded.

I've chosen not to respond until now, because I was absolutely sure this was a hoax. I mean, this is something one would expect from Muslim third world countries where people think enlightenment has something to do with the wattage on the light-bulb.

So this actually did happen? In USA? Like Maverick above thought: unreal.
I mean, Europeans jest about Americans being crazy, but not really thinking it's as bad as we joke about, but now it really seems like it is.

When I visited Atlanta for Dragon*Con this year, and 2007, it didn't seem that bad to us. OK, we were a bit shocked by a few instances of segregation attitudes we encountered, but nothing as bad as judicial proceedings from the Middle Ages...

You guys (and I don't mean 'you guys' as in SFN-guys, but Americans) need to get your shit together if you want to be a part of the 21st Century.


Dr. Mabuse - "When the going gets tough, the tough get Duct-tape..."
Dr. Mabuse whisper.mp3

"Equivocation is not just a job, for a creationist it's a way of life..." Dr. Mabuse

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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 10/18/2009 :  10:40:15   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Machi4velli wrote:
There are definitely many supporters of the death penalty for non-emotional reasons as well -- some think it saves money or would save money if implemented differently, some think it fits into some conception of justice, some think it deters crime (each position has critics, but people still think it's true). These are pretty common and more or less non-emotional.
In the USA, the death penalty currently costs more money than life sentences. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/costs-death-penalty It would only be less expensive if the system were made more speedy and eliminating many of the expensive appeals. This would increase the number of mistakes made and innocent people being executed. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/innocence-and-death-penalty

It also isn’t used frequently enough to be an effective deterrent. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/facts-about-deterrence-and-death-penalty But if it were used more frequently in order to make it an effective deterrent, again our government would be killing more innocent people by mistake.

And then there is the matter of economic and racial discrimination – the vast majority of guys on death row couldn’t afford a lawyer. Blacks are more likely to get the death penalty than whites in similar circumstances. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/death-penalty-black-and-white-who-lives-who-dies-who-decides

Frankly, the only way it is more rational to be an advocate of the death penalty is using a system which doesn’t value an innocent individual’s right to life as much as I do. No arguments (secular or religious) about any supposed benefit the death penalty provides weighs greater than the life of someone like Cameron Todd Willingham if he was innocent, which it now seems is most likely: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/09/07/090907fa_fact_grann?currentPage=all

And that doesn't even get into the value of the lives of individuals on death row who have genuinely reformed themselves and feel deep remorse for their crimes. Particular those who were very young when they committed their crime and aren't executed until over a decade later. I personally can't understand how that isn't "cruel and unusual punishment." With regards to the death penalty - which has already been abolished in almost all other industrialized nations, I agree with Mab:
You guys (and I don't mean 'you guys' as in SFN-guys, but Americans) need to get your shit together if you want to be a part of the 21st Century.


Ricky wrote:
Also, it seems as if some jurors should have never been there in the first place:
He told the journalist he believed "the Bible is truth from page 1 to the last page", and that if civil law and biblical law were in conflict, the latter should prevail.

If every juror were asked “If civil law and your person ethics end up in conflict when deciding a verdict, will you side with the civil law?” I suspect that most people (if being honest with the interviewer and themselves) would answer no, and should therefore be prevented from being a juror. For instance, if I were a juror for a trial of someone accused of a non-violent drug crime, I wouldn’t care about their guilt or innocence with regard to the letter of the law, I’d just want to get them off the hook because I think the enforcement of such laws is harmful to people. However, I’ll probably never be in such a situation because I’d be honest during the screening and be screened out.

Should screening of juries routinely include a general question about whether they put personal (including religious) ethics above the law? If they did, I don’t know if we’d have enough people left over to put on a jury.

I really don’t know what to conclude about these difficulties. I’ve never liked the idea of a “jury of peers”, but at the same time I don’t have an idea for a better alternative that I’m confident about.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

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The Rat
SFN Regular

Canada
1342 Posts

Posted - 10/18/2009 :  16:18:59   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit The Rat's Homepage Send The Rat a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Strange that most death penalty advocates are the type who don't trust the government to handle anything properly, but they'll trust them to get it right when it comes to killing someone.

Bailey's second law; There is no relationship between the three virtues of intelligence, education, and wisdom.

You fiend! Never have I encountered such corrupt and foul-minded perversity! Have you ever considered a career in the Church? - The Bishop of Bath and Wells, Blackadder II

Baculum's page: http://www.bebo.com/Profile.jsp?MemberId=3947338590
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Machi4velli
SFN Regular

USA
854 Posts

Posted - 10/18/2009 :  23:02:32   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Machi4velli a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by marfknox

In the USA, the death penalty currently costs more money than life sentences. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/costs-death-penalty It would only be less expensive if the system were made more speedy and eliminating many of the expensive appeals. This would increase the number of mistakes made and innocent people being executed. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/innocence-and-death-penalty

It also isn’t used frequently enough to be an effective deterrent. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/facts-about-deterrence-and-death-penalty But if it were used more frequently in order to make it an effective deterrent, again our government would be killing more innocent people by mistake.

I didn't mean to say those ideas were true, but that people think they are. Not sure I can accuse someone of being irrational because they have an honestly mistaken perception of the truth. And, regardless of whether it actually has any deterring effect, it's difficult enough to disprove and convoluted enough with cofactor dependencies that strong conclusions are difficult to infer and will, therefore, be difficult to quickly prove to many people of its seeming untruth.

I don't like some of those studies with anti-death penalty conclusions any more than I like the ones in favor of it -- e.g. comparing the number of murders in states with and without the death penalty with no controls. The law enforcement and criminologist views studies have some better arguments, but we are not given much information on the experimental design. I don't mean to push the burden of proof to those trying to show that it is not a deterrent, but it does need to be done to change minds.

And then there is the matter of economic and racial discrimination – the vast majority of guys on death row couldn’t afford a lawyer. Blacks are more likely to get the death penalty than whites in similar circumstances. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/death-penalty-black-and-white-who-lives-who-dies-who-decides


I don't see that inequality among ethnicities on death row has any relevance to the argument for or against the death penalty, but more an issue for the court system in general. I would also like to see a study controlling for the quality of legal representation. Using this and other seeming inaccuracies in trials, I suppose one could argue trials, by their nature, are too imperfect to allow for such a drastic decision -- though I am not sure I agree a life sentence or deciding a disputed presidential election, for examples, are much less drastic or important.

Frankly, the only way it is more rational to be an advocate of the death penalty is using a system which doesn’t value an innocent individual’s right to life as much as I do. No arguments (secular or religious) about any supposed benefit the death penalty provides weighs greater than the life of someone like Cameron Todd Willingham if he was innocent, which it now seems is most likely: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/09/07/090907fa_fact_grann?currentPage=all


Those who do think it has a deterring effect may very well do a cost/benefit analysis and conclude, for example, suppose 5% of executed persons are innocent, then executing 100 people would only have to deter 6 murders of innocent persons to save more innocent lives than it takes. I'm not so utilitarian and I don't feel strongly that there is a deterring effect, so I don't agree, but I cannot say it is an irrational argument.

And that doesn't even get into the value of the lives of individuals on death row who have genuinely reformed themselves and feel deep remorse for their crimes. Particular those who were very young when they committed their crime and aren't executed until over a decade later. I personally can't understand how that isn't "cruel and unusual punishment." With regards to the death penalty - which has already been abolished in almost all other industrialized nations, I agree with Mab:
You guys (and I don't mean 'you guys' as in SFN-guys, but Americans) need to get your shit together if you want to be a part of the 21st Century.


Other industrialized countries have abolished it, but I don't see that in and of itself to be important -- though the arguments used to abolish it in those countries may be very relevant. As for "cruel and unusual" punishment, I don't really know what that has been construed to mean in legal terms.

"Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people."
-Giordano Bruno

"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge."
-Stephen Hawking

"Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable"
-Albert Camus
Edited by - Machi4velli on 10/18/2009 23:04:48
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