Howard Friedman reports on his blog, Religion Clause, that a cert. petition has been filed in Oliver v. Quarterman, a case revolving around whether or not a juror’s use of the bible constitutes grounds for a mistrial.

Khristian Oliver claims that a juror member’s reading of the bible during a case represents an ‘external influence,’ preventing the juror from considering only the facts of the case and relevant statute. The Fifth Circuit held in August that, while improper, the use of a bible is not per se grounds for reconsideration. They argued that Oliver had not shown sufficient evidence to prove that the bible influenced the juror (or his or her peers) to make a decision they would not have made otherwise.

In October, the court denied cert. in a similar case arrising from the Texas Court Of Criminal Appeals (opinion of the TCCA here). That case, Lucero v. Texas, centered around a jury foreman who read aloud passages from the bible after he found out that two jurors were unwilling to impose the death penalty. The passages, Romans 13:1-6, had the desired effect and the two jurors changed voted to recommend the death penalty. As usual, the Supreme Court denied cert. without issuing any statement.


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