On Monday, March 28, the Colorado Supreme Court thrust into sharp relief the battle against traditional morality being waged by both state and federal judiciaries across the nation. In a 3-2 decision, the Colorado Supreme Court declared that Robert Harlan, a convicted murderer, had to be given a life sentence instead of the death penalty recommended by the jury because jurors leafed through a Bible for moral guidance during the sentencing phase of the trial. This, the majority stated, violated a jury proscription against viewing outside material:
The judicial system works very hard to emphasize the rarified, solemn and sequestered nature of jury deliberations... Jurors must deliberate in that atmosphere without the aid or distraction of extraneous texts.
This is inane. The judge who presided over the Harlan trial instructed each juror to make an "individual moral assessment" in determining whether Harlan should receive the death penalty; Colorado law dictates that jurors be instructed to consult their own personal morality before making such decisions. Many of the jurors obviously believed personally in Biblical morality. Viewing a Bible is nothing more than consulting a moral compass in which you believe. As the court's dissenters wrote:
The biblical passages the jurors discussed constituted either a part of the juror's moral and religious precepts or their general knowledge, and thus were relevant to their court-sanctioned moral assessment? In so holding, the majority puts death penalty jurors in an impossible bind; jurors are instructed to make the ultimate decision about life or death based on their individual moral assessment -- so long as their individual moral assessments are made from memory.
Is this decision really as arbitrary as all of this, or is there something deeper lurking beneath the surface? When the legalese is stripped away from this decision, all that is left is strident opposition to Biblical morality. The real point of the majority's decision was far simpler than mumbo-jumbo about extraneous texts. The point, as they articulated it, was this:
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