Texas man executed after court case Bible row

By staff writers
6 Nov 2009

UPDATE 6 NOV 2009

America's busiest death chamber claimed another life this evening as 32-year-old Khristian Oliver, whose conviction was secured through misuse of the Bible, was executed in Texas.

A 30-day reprieve had been requested by Oliver's attorneys to allow officials to examine a rifle for DNA evidence that someone else handled the weapon during the attack that led to a brutal murder.

But Governor Rick Perry maintained his past record of refusing reprieves to check evidence. He had earlier also refused an appeal concerning the bias of the jury.

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5 Nov 2009: A man sentenced to death in the USA after a jury consulted the Bible to decide his fate, is now only hours away from execution, as calls continue for the governor in the state of Texas to intervene to prevent the execution.

Thirty-two-year-old Khristian Oliver is to be executed at 6pm Texas time (12 midnight GMT) in the Huntsville prison in Texas today.

In the state, the Board of Pardons and Paroles has the power to recommend that the governor commute a death sentence, which it has not so far done. However, the state governor, Rick Perry, can still issue a stay of execution (and request that the paroles board reconsider its decision if it is a negative one).

Amnesty International has issued an 'urgent action' appeal (www.amnesty.org.uk/deathpenalty) and its supporters are calling on Governor Perry to intervene.

Khristian Oliver was sentenced to death in 1999 for a murder committed during a burglary. While deciding whether he should live or die, jurors at his trial consulted copies of the Bible in a highly selective manner by using texts supporting the death penalty, thus calling their impartiality into serious question.

Though Christians, they apparently ignored the teaching of Jesus on mercy, forgiveness and rejection of the eye-for-an-eye mentality.

In a post-trial hearing, four jurors acknowledged to the judge that several Bibles had been present in the jury room, that highlighted passages were passed between jurors and that one juror read aloud the following passage from the Bible to a group of fellow jurors: 'And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.'

However, the trial judge ruled the jury had not acted improperly, a view upheld by a Texas appeals court.

Further revelations have followed. In 2002, a journalist interviewed another juror who said that "about 80 per cent" of the jurors had "brought scripture into the deliberation", and that the jurors had consulted the Bible "long before we ever reached a verdict".

He said he believed "the Bible is truth from page one to the last page'" and that if civil law and Biblical law were in conflict, the latter should prevail. He also said that if he had been told he could not consult the Bible: "I would have left the courtroom". He described life imprisonment as a "burden" on the taxpayer.

Amnesty International's UK Director, Kate Allen said: "The governor must intervene to try to preserve the reputation of Texas and see that justice is now done in this case."

Oliver’s lawyer, David Dow, said there was nothing wrong with people bringing their religious values into the jury room, “but they must take great care to ensure that, in sentencing a murderer, they follow Texas law rather than religious law, and in this case, the jurors did not do so.”

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