Texas jury uses the Bible to convict man to death

The law scares me. It’s not because I think justice is impossible, or I’ll somehow end up victimized by it. However, there is always a moment in our lives when we may run up against it, and if such a moment ever arose for me, I am utterly terrified at the prospect of being judged by a jury of my peers. Reading stories like this one reminds me only a small minority of people actually bother using their logical minds when trying to decide something as important as a man’s fate.

In 1999, Kristian Oliver was found guilty of bludgeoning an elderly man to death during a botched robbery. When it came time for the jury to decide his fate, a number of them decided to consult the Bible (specifically the Book of Numbers) for guidance. One of the jurors, Donna Matheny, had highlighted this passage:

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.

10 years later and Oliver’s lawyer is still trying to get the sentence overturned, arguing the Bible had no place in the jury room during deliberation. But because this is fucking Texas, a judge found insufficient evidence that the Bible significantly influenced the jury’s decision. Of course, this same judge also strictly forbade Oliver’s lawyer from directly asking jurors if the Bible had been used to influence their ruling, so how anything was properly determined, I have no idea.

So if you live in Texas and you don’t believe in God, do everything in your power to avoid being involved in the legal system. You’re likely to get totally fucked over by a bunch of Neanderthals who think the Bible is an instrument of law. This is the same book that commands you stone your children to death if you catch them swearing.  Feeling terrified yet?

(props to Arynn for the find)

Comments (11)

  • avatar

    Razzle

    I share your fears, but I find the Bible being used to contradict the law unlikely. It’s good to bring this story up though.

  • avatar

    Price

    What is really scary is that believers read only what they want to in the Bible. They used the verse from Numbers 35:16. That is one, of many, rules that was put into effect, by god, for the fleeing to Canaan. It’s like the whole “Eye for an Eye” buisness from Exodus. People use that as an excuse for revenge. Though, in reading on, god merely means that “eye for an eye, foot for a foot, etc.” is the extent to which you can punish anyone who commits a crime against you. Anything more, and “Vengence is Mine” says god. Christians are more ignorant of whole the Bible, than non-believers. That being stated, I do believe, you kill someone, you are to be killed in return. The jury came to the right decision, but in the wrong way. That is just my opinion.

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    The inability to have complete assurance of guilt (even in the most seemingly “clear” cases), the unreliability of eyewitness testimony (now a scientific fact) makes the death penalty completely barbaric and inhumane.

  • avatar

    Isaac

    Funny you menstion Texas. There’s a group of atheists in Texas called the ACA (Atheist Community of Austin), and they have two podcasts on Atheism. Wonder if they have anything to say on the matter.

  • avatar

    Razzle

    //The inability to have complete assurance of guilt (even in the most seemingly “clear” cases), the unreliability of eyewitness testimony (now a scientific fact) makes the death penalty completely barbaric and inhumane.//

    By your own reasoning, it wouldn’t always be barbaric. Personally, I’m undecided on the death penalty – leaning towards against.

  • avatar

    Razzle

    o wait, i was wrong about that. My bad – poor reading skillz on my part

  • avatar

    Razzle

    //The inability to have complete assurance of guilt //

    Can’t I imply the logical fallacy of you demanding a negative be proven?

    IE, you’re saying “You can’t disprove that he didn’t do it”

    I could be wrong, im just looking for clarification

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    No, since you aren’t trying to prove a negative. The problem is that as soon as one innocent person is executed (and we know there have been in the past), then our own check and balances have failed. It is impossible to be completely certain of guilt. Even if this impossibility was fixed, it’s not the state’s job to execute people. Incarcerate them, sure. It’s cheaper anyways.

  • avatar

    Razzle

    Yea, I think you’re right, I don’t think it’s a fallacy, thanks for clearing it up. (that might come off as satire but i’m serious)

    //It is impossible to be completely certain of guilt//

    This sounds a lot like “we can’t really know anything”
    Yes, this is true, but we work in the world based off assumptions, If we didn’t, we couldn’t say anything about anything at all.

    I think what you’re getting at is that it’s okay to work off assumptions based on everything, aside from the death penalty, because dying is the worst thing that could happen to someone.

    To me, other things could be worse – we work based off of assumptions when we eat foods, that it won’t make us suffer for years. We haven’t seen anyone react to eating a candy bar by having a 20 year seizure, so
    we feed our kids a candy bar based on the assumption that this will not happen to them – but it COULD.

    (That might be sophist crap – im not sure – if so im not doing it on purpose)

  • avatar

    Razzle

    I think i oppose the death penalty, because it doesn’t seem to do any good. I actually think that keeping someone alive in prison is harsher than killing them often times. Another reason I think i oppose the death penalty is that people on death row sometimes help solve other crimes, so if we didn’t execute them they could be helping us out.

    I may well rather be killed, than spend 60 years in prison. ( ive never been to prison so i dunno for sure )

  • avatar

    Ivan Soto

    The raw facts of the case that won conviction make the use of the bible in the sentencing phase moot. The sooner that killer gets put to death the better. Of course, it is shocking that people don’t feel qualified to discharge their obligations as jurors without referring to such an anachronistic and silly reference as the bible is.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to top