Here's my previous post on the Colorado-death-penalty-overturned case. jeremy has some comments on it, and I think he's right:
That said, I strongly disagree with King's final sentence, saying that jurors IN GENERAL should be allowed to consult their religious beliefs, as to do otherwise would be an infringement of their first amendment rights. Juries are under all sorts of restrictions which seem to obviate Amendment rights. Gag orders, orders against reading newspapers, all of these are "violations" of Amendment rights. The jury-system relies on jurors to act in a very particular way while they serve which is a very different way than that which is expected of normal citizens.Perhaps the sentence should be amended to read:
The right of jurors to use religion as a guide for such moral decisions should not be infringed upon, as it would be a textbook violation of the freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment.Regardless, jeremy's second point is the more important of the two, and perhaps the one that I should address. That jurors should not be asked to rely on individual moral compasses is true, as the law is ideally dispassionate. (I suppose I could bring up that relatively trite Aristotle quote that pops up in Legally Blond...) Nonetheless it seems to me that jurors doing just that is an inevitable part of the judicial system, insofar as the ideal of a trial by a jury of one's peers remains valid. Unless the average level of education and discipline among citizens rises drastically, jurors are always going to bring their personal morals into play when deciding a legal matter, despite all the chiding in the world from the presiding judge. That this trend should be minimized however possible is undeniable. That Colorado attempted to do so in codified fashion is not the problem; the problem, as jeremy rightly points out in closing, is with the death penalty itself:
it creates the life-in-prison/death dichotomy which must almost always be mediated by some judgment about a persons' soul, sorrowfulness, regret, etc. Cf. the avenging angels on the S. Peterson jury. Torture them all.I obviously support his proposed remedy wholeheartedly.