Bible plays role in Texas execution case
One witness who saw 64-year-old Joe Collins being beaten about the head by
a rifle-swinging assailant compared it getting pummeled with an ax or a
Lawyers for his convicted attacker complained jurors improperly viewed the
weapon as a biblical iron rod.
32-year-old Khristian Oliver, convicted of the March 1998 slaying during a
burglary of the Collins home outside Nacogdoches in East Texas, was set to
die Thursday evening in Huntsville.
Unsuccessful appeals have argued Oliver's constitutional rights were
violated by jurors who may have consulted a Bible during deliberations.
Rebuffed in the courts, Oliver's attorneys are asking Gov. Rick Perry to
grant him a 30-day reprieve.
(source: Associated Press)
———— 2 new execution dates ————–
Hank Skinner has been given an execution date for February 24, and
Franklin Alix has been given an execution date for March 30; both dates
should be considered serious.
(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)
Court upholds death sentence in 1986 murders
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has upheld the death sentence of a
Houston man convicted of killing a woman and her 2-year-old son although 3
of the 9 judges believe he deserves a new trial.
Michael Wayne Norris was convicted and condemned for the November 1986
shooting deaths of 38-year-old Georgia Rollins and her son, Keith. At the
time, Norris, now 51, already was out of prison after serving 7 years of
an 8-year term for another murder.
Judge Paul Womack, joined Wednesday by 2 other judges on the state's
highest criminal court, says he believes the law making multiple killings
eligible for a death sentence was misapplied in this case because Norris
didn't intend to kill the child.
(source: Associated Press)
Time running out for man facing execution after jurors used bible to
decide his fate
'And if he smite him with an instrument of iron … the murderer shall
surely be put to death' – Biblical passage relied on by jurors
'The fact that a man's life hangs by a thread because of scripture is
shocking' – Kate Allen
A man sentenced to death in the USA after a jury consulted the Bible to
decide his fate is now only a day away from execution, warned Amnesty
International, as it called on the governor in the state of Texas to
intervene to prevent the execution.
32-year-old Khristian Oliver is set to be executed at 6pm Texas time (12
midnight GMT) in the Huntsville prison in Texas tomorrow. In Texas the
Board of Pardons and Paroles has the power to recommend that the governor
commute a death sentence, which it has not so far done. However, the state
governor Rick Perry can still issue a stay of execution (and request that
the paroles board reconsider its decision if it is a negative one), and
Amnesty has issued an 'urgent action' appeal
(www.amnesty.org.uk/deathpenalty) and its supporters are calling on
Governor Perry to intervene.
Khristian Oliver was sentenced to death in 1999 for a murder committed
during a burglary. While deciding whether he should live or die, jurors at
his trial consulted copies of the Bible, including text supporting the
death penalty, calling into serious question their impartiality.
In a post-trial hearing four jurors acknowledged to the judge that several
Bibles had been present in the jury room, that highlighted passages were
passed between jurors, and that one juror read aloud the following passage
from the Bible to a group of fellow jurors: '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.' However, the trial judge ruled the jury had not
acted improperly, a view upheld by a Texas appeals court.
Further revelations have followed. In 2002, a journalist interviewed
another juror who said that 'about 80%' of the jurors had 'brought
scripture into the deliberation', and that the jurors had consulted the
Bible 'long before we ever reached a verdict'. He said he believed 'the
Bible is truth from page one to the last page' and that if civil law and
Biblical law were in conflict the latter should prevail. He also said that
if he'd been told he could not consult the Bible: 'I would have left the
courtroom'. He described life imprisonment as a 'burden' on the taxpayer.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
'Time is running out for Khristian Oliver and we're calling on Governor
Rick Perry to step in to stop this execution.
'Governor Perry must surely recognise that it's totally unacceptable for
juries in Texas to use the Bible in their deliberations. A court of law is
not a prayer meeting and the fact that a man's life hangs by a thread
because of scripture is shocking.
'The governor must intervene to try to preserve the reputation of Texas
and see that justice is now done in this case.'
Death row in the USA: some key facts
Texas is one of 35 US states to retain the death penalty
The USA has seen a fall in the number of executions in recent years, but
it still executes dozens of people every year – last year there were 37
executions (the 4th highest number of any country in the world)
To date in 2009 there have been 42 executions (an average of almost 1 per
week), 19 of these in Texas
Khristian Oliver is 1 of 358 inmates (348 men, 10 women) on death row in
Since 1977 the USA has executed 1,178 people
From 1973 to the present 139 people have been released from death row in
the USA on the grounds of innocence (an average of four exonerations per
Some 3,300 prisoners remain on death row in the USA
(source: Amnesty International)