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Juror Misconduct

In 1995, Robert Harlan was convicted in Colorado for one count of murder and another count of attempted murder.  The jury sentenced Mr. Harlan to the death penalty.  His case was appealed, and his conviction was affirmed and upheld.


On Monday (March 28, 2005), the Colorado Supreme Court overturned the death sentence of Robert Harlan.  The reason cited for overturning the sentence was juror misconduct.  What was this misconduct that the jury committed to make their judgment void?  They brought Bibles into the jury room and wrote down and quoted passages from the Old Testament.


The issue I bring to your attention has nothing to do with the death penalty.  The issue is that the Bible (Old Testament or New Testament) was considered to be a corrupting influence upon the judgment of the jurors.  This case demonstrates the fearful truth that Godís word is not respected as a standard of righteous judgment in many courts in this land.  The jurors were not accused of making a judgment that was inconsistent with the law of the state.  It was the fact that the jurors recognized the higher law of God that caused their judgment to be ruled invalid.


Speaking for myself, I have had great confidence in our judicial systemís ability to do justice.  Lately, my confidence has abated.  If our courts cannot acknowledge that the absolute standards of morality are founded on God, then what do they recognize?  If considering the word of God is considered to be juror misconduct, then every Christian will be ineligible to serve on a jury.


ďBut let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing streamĒ (Amos 5:24).  Maybe justice is not a topic that we often consider.  Maybe we assume that justice is a given.  Yet Scripture demonstrates that God is concerned with justice.  One of the failures of Israel and Judah was the injustice that was prevalent in the land (see the book of Amos).  Judgments were made by corrupt bargains with the rich bribing their way to a favorable result with contempt for the law of God.  For this, among other things, Godís people were condemned.


Do not be dismayed.  No one ever promised justice in this world.  As long as men are the judges, mistakes of judgment will be made. Godís word may not be respected in the courts of men, but it will be the final word in the Lordís court.  ďHe who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last dayĒ (John 12:48).


Stacey E. Durham



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