Judge Overturns Jury's Death Penalty Verdict

A Colorado judge has overturned the death sentence of a man convicted of a brutal murder because the jury read and referred to bibles during its deliberations.

While noting that [Robert] Harlan's crimes ``were among the most grievous, heinous and reprehensible'' he had seen in 18 years on the bench, Adams County District Judge John J. Vigil said court officials failed to properly sequester the jury.

Jury members stayed in a hotel during deliberations and court officials made sure newspapers were not delivered to their rooms, but the jurors did find bibles in the rooms.

In a five-day hearing last month, Harlan's attorneys argued that several jurors consulted biblical scripture during jury deliberations, particularly two Old Testament passages from Leviticus that read, ``fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, as he has caused disfigurement of a man, so shall it be done to him.'' And, ``whoever kills an animal shall restore it, but whoever kills a man shall be put to death.''

``The jury supervision performed in this case was extremely negligent and appallingly lax,'' Vigil wrote in his ruling. ``Jury resort to biblical code has no place in a constitutional death penalty proceeding.''

The prosecution said it will appeal.

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