Robert Harlan was on Colorado’s death row for murdering Rhonda Maloney. He won a new trial from the Colorado Supreme Court when it came to light that a juror brought a Bible into the jury room. The jurors consulted the Bible and quoted passages to each other, including “an eye for an eye.” The state appealed the reversal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Yesterday, on the first day of the Court’s new term, the Court refused to accept the case. That means the ruling throwing out the death penalty stands. Colorado Public Defender David Kaplan explains the rule:
“Anything external that makes it into the jury deliberation is fundamentally improper,” Kaplan said. “It is just not the Bible. It could be an atlas, an encyclopedia, a dictionary.”
It’s not a technicality. Cases must be decided by evidence introduced in court. Jurors are not an adjunct of either the proseuction or the defense. They are not advocates, they are fact-finders. They apply those facts to the rules provided by the judge. The system only works if everyone plays by the rules.