The Colorado Supreme Court has overturned a convicted murderer’s death penalty after finding that jurors consulted the Bible during sentencing.
In People v. Harlan, the state’s high court ruled 3-2 that several jurors consulted the Bible in sentencing Robert Harlan to the death penalty. The 60-page ruling held that jurors’ use of religious codes or other material not codified by Colorado ran afoul of state law.
Harlan’s defense attorneys appealed the death penalty after discovering that several jurors discussed passages from Leviticus, in particular, the eye-for-an-eye command, during deliberations.
The court, noting the Bible is considered a code of law by many in the state’s “contemporary communities,” concluded that “introduction of the Bible by a juror to demonstrate to another juror a command of death for murder created a reasonable possibility that a typical juror could have been influenced to vote for a death sentence instead of life; consequently, we must uphold the trial court’s judgment vacating the death sentence and sentencing Harlan to life imprisonment without parole.”